By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. plans to give Israel the extra $70 million that Jerusalem asked for this year for short-range missile defense, officials said Thursday.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said President Barack Obama had directed him to fill Israel's request for the extra money for the Iron Dome system, designed to intercept short-range rockets and mortars.
The U.S. already has provided $205 million for the system and annually gives Israel roughly another $3.1 billion in overall security assistance, the most for any foreign country.
Panetta met Thursday morning with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, then issued a statement saying he had told Barak of the U.S. intention to provide the additional help for Iron Dome.
"My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens," the statement said. "That is why going forward over the next three years, we intend to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat."
The funding requires congressional approval and is likely to get it.
"Iron Dome is a game changer, saving lives and providing increased security to innocent Israelis who for too long have been terrorized by random Palestinian terrorist rocket attacks," said Rep. Howard Berman of California, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"At every turn — Democrats and Republicans, this administration and the Netanyahu government — we all have walked in lockstep to achieve these results together," Berman said in a statement, calling Israeli security " an American imperative."
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