The United States has fulfilled Israel’s request for another $70 million to pay for Iron Dome, a missile defense system aimed at protecting Israelis from rockets fired by militants in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak came to the Pentagon Thursday, the latest of several visits in recent months to ask for additional funding for the surface-to-air missile system that already has stopped several militant rocket attacks on southern Israel.
In a statement, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said President Barack Obama has directed him to fill the Israeli request to fund a system that Panetta says has saved Israeli lives and can prevent an escalation of violence in the region.
Pentagon spokesman George Little says the move signals U.S. commitment to Israel’s missile defense and its overall security, even at a time when the Pentagon is facing severe budget constraints.
“Israel is in a tough neighborhood and we have for decades supported their independence and their security,” said Little. “We believe that an investment in Israeli security is important for Israel and important for the United States.”
The United States provides about $3 billion in security assistance to the Jewish state annually. Washington already has paid $205 million for the system, which U.S. and Israeli officials say has proven its worth.
In March, the U.S. Defense Department said the system was responsible for taking down 80 percent of several hundred rockets that militants in the Gaza Strip directed at Israel.