WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday overwhelmingly approved $1 billion in new funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, after a debate that revealed bitter divisions among Democrats over the United States’ policy toward one of its closest allies. brought.
The vote was 490 to 9 to help Israel replace missile interceptors used during heavy fighting in May amid a devastating missile and missile war with the Palestinians, reflecting widespread bipartisan support for Jerusalem in Congress already. persists for decades.
But it came only after a group of progressive Democrats accusing Israel of human rights abuses against Palestinians rose up and in effect threatened to shut down the government instead of backing the money. Democratic leaders were forced to scrap it from legislation to keep the government funded after a September 30 deadline passed by the House on Tuesday and approve the Iron Dome money separately.
The liberals’ maneuver startled centrist and Jewish lawmakers, who said they were dismayed and astonished at their colleagues’ refusal to fund a defensive system to protect Israeli citizens.
“Whatever your opinion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is problematic to use a system that has just saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives as political chit,” said Michigan Democrat Elissa Slotkin.
The back and forth was the latest flare-up in a long-simmering feud between the party’s energetic progressive wing, which has ended conditional aid to Israel, and other Democrats who strongly support Israel’s right to defense. yourself. Internal tensions come as a growing number of Democrats in Washington, spurred on by the party’s left, say they are no longer willing to give the country a pass for its treatment of Palestinians.
“We must stop allowing Israel’s human rights abuses and apartheid government,” Michigan Democrat Rashida Tlaib said Wednesday night, announcing she would vote against the bill.
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, argued Thursday that the United States should no longer continue to provide Israel with funding “without addressing the underlying issue of the occupation.”
“This is not about one country,” said Ms Omar. “If human rights are really to guide our foreign policy, we need to behave that way everywhere. Otherwise our words will sound hollow.”
The episode underlined how fragile the wafer-thin majority of Democrats in the House is — and how any division can threaten party leaders’ ability to gather the bare minimum of votes needed to pass a bill.
Eight Democrats, as well as a Republican, Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie, ultimately opposed the measure. Two Democrats, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Hank Johnson of Georgia, voted in attendance.
On Thursday, their comments sparked an outcry from some of their colleagues, who claimed the legislation was limited to supporting a full defensive system. They noted that during the height of the fighting in May, the Iron Dome intercepted more than 90 percent of the flurry of Hamas-launched missiles that would otherwise have landed in civilian-populated areas.
In an angry speech on the House floor, Florida Democrat Ted Deutch said he would not allow “one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and support the Jewish Democratic State of Israel.” would call an apartheid state”.
“Falsely characterizing the State of Israel is consistent with those advocating the dismantling of the only Jewish state in the world,” he said. “If there is no place on the map for one Jewish state, that is anti-Semitism, and I reject that.”
Determined to show the party would support one of the country’s closest allies, Maryland’s Representative Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat who had lobbied for the aid, downplayed the drama in a phone call to Yair Lapid, Israel’s minister. of Foreign Affairs. matters, calling it a “technical delay” and reiterating its “commitment to ensure Israel receives this needed aid.”
“After years in which the previous administration neglected Congress and the Democratic Party and caused significant damage to Israel-US relations, today we are building a relationship of trust with Congress,” wrote Mr. Lapid on Twitter, confirming the call. .
Other party members, including California Chair Nancy Pelosi and Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, the credit committee chair, rose on Thursday in support of the legislation, arguing that passing the additional funding was critical to protecting Israeli citizens and noted that it was an extension of a 2016 deal signed by former President Barack Obama.
But seeing an opportunity to peel off Jewish voters from the Democratic Party, House Republicans termed the altercation as an offense against Israel. They said progressives’ refusal to allow funding as part of the broader government spending bill was a missed opportunity to support Israel, even as Republicans massively opposed the spending bill.
“By blocking funding to supply the Iron Dome, Democrats have made the choice to pass up an opportunity to stand behind Israel and its citizens,” said Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican .