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A bipartisan coalition of 30 senators is calling on top appropriators to fully fund several joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense systems that help protect the Jewish state from terrorist rocket attacks, according to a letter sent by the lawmakers to the Senate’s Appropriations Defense Subcommittee and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The lawmakers, led by Sens. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.), are seeking to ensure that these missile systems receive the full amount of funding amid a sharp rise in the number of terror attacks occurring in Israel.
The joint defense systems—which include Iron Dome, the Arrow III interceptor, and David’s Sling—have been in the works for years, and have proven capable of destroying missile threats before they strike land.
Congress allocated more than $487 million for the programs in 2015, including around $55 for the Iron Dome system, which has garnered international headlines for its ability to knock down crude rockets fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
The other systems are still being perfected, but are expected to be capable of targeting more sophisticated missiles, such as those supplied by Iran to the terror group Hezbollah.
“It is in America’s national security interest to empower Israel, a democracy and our closest ally in the Middle East, to defend itself against rocket and missile threats from Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists as well as Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime,” Kirk said in a statement provided to the Free Beacon. “U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation has an indisputable record of saving countless innocent lives from indiscriminate missile and rocket attacks.”
Gillibrand also touted the programs as a sound investment for both U.S. and Israeli security.
“Israel faces a range of threats in a dangerous and unstable region and providing this assistance for programs including Iron Dome and David’s Sling will ensure that our friend and ally can protect its citizens,” Gillibrand said in a separate statement.
The lawmakers expressed concern in their letter about the rising number of threats besieging the Jewish state.
“Amid growing rocket and missile threats in the Middle East, it is prudent for the United States and Israel to advance and accelerate bilateral cooperation on missile defense technologies,” they write. “We therefore urge you to fully fund U.S.-Israeli joint missile defense programs so that Israel can continue to develop and improve the three cooperative missile defense programs, as well as to purchase sufficient Iron Dome systems, including co-production of these systems in the United States, for protecting Israel’s population against growing missile and rocket threats in the region.”
The funding request comes just ahead of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual Washington, D.C., gathering. Joint U.S.-Israeli military programs have been a cornerstone of the advocacy group’s agenda.
The letter also was signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), James Inhofe (R., Okla.), Time Kaine (D., Va.), David Vitter (R., La.), Mark Warner (D., Va.), Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), David Perdue (R., Ga.), Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and other leading lawmakers.