Berman: “Iron Dome is an Israeli necessity, American priority, and a strategic imperative that is a fundamental game changer saving innocent Israeli lives.”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Howard L. Berman, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement in support of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012.

Rep. Berman was the lead Democrat managing the debate on this bill in Congress today.

“In a vote of solidarity and with a united voice, Congress further strengthened the U.S.-Israel relationship and that bond remains unbreakable,” said U.S. Rep. Howard Berman. “Israel flourishes in a desert oasis, with the Iranian pariah state calling for its destruction and a Palestinian neighbor unresponsive to peace efforts. We in the United States stand with Israel solidly and squarely.”

Berman co-authored the legislation that includes continued congressional support for Iron Dome funding, as well as the extension of loan guarantees for Israel, efforts he has long championed.

“Iron Dome is an Israeli necessity, American priority, and a strategic imperative that is a fundamental game changer saving innocent Israeli lives,” Berman added.

Later tonight, the House Armed Services Committee will complete marking up the National Defense Authorization Act that will include $680 million in funding for Iron Dome.

Yesterday, in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Rep. Berman penned an op-ed arguing the case in support of this Iron Dome funding, as well as outlining a brief history of the Iron Dome initiative.

Mr. Berman’s statement delivered before Congress while managing the debate on this bill appears below:

Mr. / Madam Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 4133, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, and yield myself three minutes.

I would like to thank my friends Majority Leader Cantor and Minority Whip Hoyer for bringing this important bill to the floor. Their cooperation on this legislation is an outstanding example of Congress’ bipartisan support for the US-Israel relationship.

Mr. / Madam Speaker, since its founding, Israel has faced innumerable challenges to its survival, but the serious threats it faces today are unprecedented.

Only weeks ago, a massive barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza at Israeli population centers by Islamic Jihad and other terrorists. But unlike previous incidents where terrorists targeted Israel, the Iron Dome anti-missile system -- funded in part by the United States -- changed the rules of the game. In fact, Iron Dome intercepted a remarkable 90 percent of incoming rockets aimed at once-defenseless population centers.

Currently, there are only three Iron Dome batteries operational in Israel, with two more on the way, but 10 more are needed in order to protect all of Israel’s eight million citizens.

I’m pleased to say that H.R. 4133 incorporates language from the Iron Dome Support Act, bipartisan legislation I recently introduced – and which now has nearly 90 cosponsors -- expressing support for providing Israel assistance to produce additional Iron Dome batteries.

This bill also pledges to assist Israel with its ongoing efforts to forge a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states living side by side in peace and security.

Despite all the obstacles to achieving this goal, we can’t give up trying, as peace is profoundly in Israel’s strategic interest. I applaud Prime Minister Netanyahu’s willingness to negotiate anywhere, any time. The Palestinians should take him up on that offer, instead of pursuing a campaign to delegitimize Israel at the UN and elsewhere.

Mr. / Madam Speaker, perhaps the greatest threat to both American and Israeli security today is that posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

I hope this problem can be solved diplomatically. But, as we all know, only massive pressure from the United States and our allies has any chance of persuading Iran to give up its quest for nuclear arms. This bill makes clear that the U.S. Congress will continue to help Israel meet the Iranian threat.

Mr. / Madam Speaker, Gaza-based terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Iranian nuclear program, are not the only threats faced by Israel. Recent events in Egypt and Syria, along with the presence of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, require Israeli vigilance against danger from all directions.

To that end, this bill re-affirms our determination to support Israel’s qualitative military edge against any possible combination of regional threats.

And, reinforcing that commitment to Israel’s security, this bill extends for four years a loan guarantee program for Israel that was initiated in 2003. The extension is based on legislation that Chairman Ros-Lehtinen and I introduced in March.

Mr. / Madam Speaker, our relationship with our ally Israel is one of the most important, and closest, that we have with any nation in the world. We face many of the same threats, and we share the same values.

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak recently said that he can hardly remember a better period of US “support and cooperation” and common US-Israel strategic understanding than the current one.

Passage of this bill will help ensure that this cooperation continues into the future.

I encourage all of my colleagues to support this legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.