For the second straight year, President Obama is seeking to decrease funding to joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.
Tucked within Obama’s 2013 budget proposal is a request to reduce the amount of money Israel receives for its critical missile defense systems by $6.3 million relative to the 2012 budget proposal. Among these defense systems are Arrow and David’s Sling, both of which are jointly operated with the U.S.
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Publicly, the president has referred to himself as a stalwart champion of the U.S.-Israel military alliance. But administration efforts to reduce the amount of missile defense aid that Israel receives appear to be a growing trend in the president’s budget proposals.
In fiscal year 2011, the administration requested $121.7 million in military aid for Israel’s key missile defense programs, according to the Defense Department. That number dropped to $106.1 million in the 2012 budget proposal, and plummeted again to $99.8 million in Obama’s newly released 2013 proposal.
The administration has come under mounting pressure to reduce the U.S. defense budget. But some wonder whether it makes sense to reduce aid to America’s number one ally in the Middle East.
"The continued downward slide in President Obama's requests for critical US-Israel missile defense programs is troubling, and while Israel can continue to rely on close friends on Capitol Hill to make up the shortfall in funds needed, one is left wondering what President Obama would do if he becomes a lame duck President," said a defense budget analyst who has tracked Israel funding for years, but was not authorized to speak on record.
Pro-Israel allies in Congress tend to ignore the Obama administration’s recommendations regarding Israel. In fiscal year 2011, for instance, key members of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee – including Reps. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), Bill Young (R-Fla.), and Norm Dicks (D-Wash.)—boosted Israel’s military allowance to $209 million. In 2012, they upped it to $235 million.
The National Jewish Democratic Council did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, lamented the funding trend: "For an administration which tried to claim that it’s the best for Israel’s security, cutting critical funds for missile defense at a time when the threat from Iran has never been greater is extremely dangerous, worrisome and reckless."