In the wake of Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile success record in knocking down Palestinian missiles and rockets fired from Gaza earlier this month and the smuggling of more power Iranian missiles into Gaza, Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced legislation to increase American funding for the advanced weapon defense system.
The legislation, which authorizes the President to provide additional funding if requested by the Israeli government, sets no dollar amount, but a formal request is expected shortly. Last year the United States provided $205 million for Iron Dome.
Cosponsoring the bill are Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), the Chairman of the Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), and U.S. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY).
In responding to the recent round of attacks by terrorist groups in Gaza, the first operational test for the missile interceptor "achieved some notable successes," said Mark A. Heller of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. "It was able to discriminate between rockets likely to land in open areas and those headed for population centers, and to refrain from wasting itself on the former while intercepting about 80 percent of the latter." The IDF has put the success rate at 90 percent.
Israeli Amb. Michael Oren has said Israel needs at least 10 more Iron Dome batteries in addition to the three currently deployed and in southern Israel and two more under construction. The goal is 16 batteries to cover all of Israel, including the Syrian and Lebanese-Hizbullah borders in the north.
Iron Dome doesn't go after every missile fired at Israel but is able to determine which are headed for populated areas and ignore those that are most likely to strike harmlessly.
Dov Raviv, an Israeli expert in missile defense, has said that without Iron Dome interceptors the only way to stop the missiles and protect the residents of southern Israel "would be to occupy Gaza or go back to Operation Cast Lead."
Iron Dome is designed to defend against missiles fired from between 2.5 and 45 miles away but reportedly is not yet able to intercept longer-range Fajr missiles, supplied and built by Iran and capable of hitting Tel Aviv from Gaza.
Despite this month's success record, Iron Dome has not been tested against a massive barrage fired from Gaza or Lebanon, as happened prior years.
"The real test will come when the number of rockets is more significant and the potential damage also increases," said an Israeli air force commander.