Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system will be stripped of $1bn in US funding after Democrats “capitulated” to the Squad to avoid a government shutdown.
While the funding is expected to be reinstated in a later vote, the far-left wing of the Democratic party leveraged the urgency of raising the debt limit to nudge forward its agenda on withholding military aid to Israel.
The move drew bipartisan criticism from both moderate Democrats and Republicans, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling it a capitulation to “the antisemitic influence of their radical members”.
As the House prepared to consider its short-term government funding bill on Wednesday, representative Ilhan Omar said the US should not sell weapons to “human rights abusers”.
“We sold $175 billion in weapons last year – more than anyone in the world – to some of the worst human right abusers in the world,” she said on Twitter.
“Here’s an idea: don’t sell arms to anyone who violates human rights.”
We sold $175 billion in weapons last year—more than anyone in the world—to some of the worst human right abusers in the world.
Here’s an idea: don’t sell arms to anyone who violates human rights.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) September 22, 2021
Ms Omar and fellow Squad members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib were “leading the charge” to defund military aid from the Iron Dome, which defends Israeli civilians from rocket attacks, according to Politico.
A diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post that the White House began reversing the decision almost immediately after it was announced, illustrating the divide between the progressive members of Congress and president Joe Biden.
Mr Biden committed to replenishing Israel’s Iron Dome batteries after clashes between the terrorist group Hamas and Israel in May, while Democrats introduced a resolution over the summer to block a weapons sale to the country.
Democratic representative Elissa Slotkin, from Michigan, took aim at her own party’s objection to the “purely defencive” Iron Dome, calling it an opportunistic attack on the State of Israel.
“Whatever your views on the Israeli-Pal conflict, using a system that just saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives as a political chit is problematic,” she said in a tweet.
“To target Iron Dome now means the issue isn’t a genuine concern over the system, but rather the desire to attack something - anything - related to the State of Israel; it’s devoid of substance and irresponsible,” she added.
The Democrats’ House majority leader Steny Hoyer spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to stress the holdup was “technical”, and convey the party’s commitment to passing the Iron Dome funding soon, according to Axios.
The behind-the-scenes assurances come as the Embassy of Israel was forced to deny that its ambassador was being withdrawn as a result of the funding cut.
While the Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the time of publication, spokesman Elad Strohmayer said on Twitter the reported claims were “false”.