By Sergio Yahni, Alternative Information Center (AIC)
The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, adopted by the US House of Representatives by a large majority on June 14, includes an amendment that requires the US to ensure that Israel can defend itself against “existential threats”.
The U.S. Congress oversees the defense budget primarily through two yearly bills: the National Defense Authorization Act and defense appropriations bills. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is a United States federal law specifying the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense. Each year’s act also includes provisions and amendments not necessarily related to US security agencies and distribution of budget.
The amendment, initiated by Representative Peter Roskam (Republican, Illinois), states, “It is the policy of the United States to take all necessary steps to ensure that Israel possesses and maintains an independent capability to remove existential threats to its security and defend its vital national interests”.
“It is the Sense of the Congress that air refueling tankers and advanced bunker-buster munitions should immediately be transferred to Israel to ensure our democratic ally has an independent capability to remove any existential threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program and defend its vital national interests.”
The measure requires the president to regularly submit to Congress a report confirming that the US has taken all steps necessary to ensure that Israel maintains an independent capability to remove existential threats to its security and defend its vital national interests.
According to the Israeli business website Globes, the Defense Authorization Act triples funding for US-Israeli missile defense programs, including the Arrow but excluding Iron Dome, from $96 million to $284 million in fiscal year 2014. It increases funding for Iron Dome from the $15 million, requested by Pentagon, to $220.3 million.
The argument for increasing funding for Iron Dome is the possible need for Iron Dome production capability in the US. In contrast to other anti-missile programs, such as the Arrow and David’s Sling, Israel has exclusive intellectual property to the Iron Dome, but some US representatives want to increase US involvement in production of the system and to upgrade it, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The House version of the bill must survive the reconciliation process with the Senate and then be signed by President Barack Obama to become law.
Peter James Roskam is the U.S. Representative for Illinois’s 6th congressional district, serving since 2007. He is a “rising star” in the Republican House with a secured seat. Roskam co-chairs the House Republican Israel Caucus and is a member of both the bipartisan Israel Allies Caucus and the Congressional Hellenic Israel Alliance, which supports efforts to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Greece.
As part of the Zionist lobby in Washington, he pushed for several proposals in Congress supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). According to the Times of Israel he pushed for the Iron Dome Act, the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act and the United States-Israel Strategic Alliance and Security Act.
AIPAC has recently expressed strong support for legislation designating Israel a “major strategic ally” of the United States. The 2013 annual conference the pro Israeli lobby focused on achieving for Israel this unique status enjoyed by no other country in the world.
AIPAC strategic objectives were seen as facilitating Israel’s military action against Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. However, Roskam amendment comes at a time of growing tensions between Israel and Syria, as the American administration has decided to arm Syrian rebels. Potentially, the amendment has the power to draw the US into an unwanted war in the region, with unknown consequences.