Thursday, May 31, 2012

Portman Statement on Meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak

Tel Aviv, Israel – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Ranking Member on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, met today with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to discuss the United States’ long-term security commitment to Israel and emerging threats within the region.

“Defense Minister Barak and I discussed the many security issues facing Israel. We spoke about the threat that Iran poses to Israel and the United States, and the need to keep up international pressure,” said Portman following the meeting. "The international community can't allow the Iranians to stall further multilateral pressure through hollow talks."

“We also spoke about my visit earlier in the day to a battery of the Iron Dome anti-rocket air defense system, and how U.S. support for this technology is a win-win proposal for both of our nations. Having fought for the program in the National Defense Authorization Act, I was glad to hear more about its highly successful track record and the Israelis’ commitment to the program, as well as see it in action firsthand,” he continued. “The Iron Dome system is a proven way for Israel to defend its citizens from hostile threats and will advance missile defense technology for us and other allies.”

In the last decade, Israelis in the north and south have suffered bombardment by terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas. In response, the Iron Dome system was developed in 2007 to defend against short-range rocket and artillery attacks. This cost-effective system was initially funded solely by Israel, but funding for the production and deployment of additional Iron Dome batteries was later approved by the United States.

Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee awarded $210 million for joint U.S.-Israeli cooperative missile defense programs and procurement of additional Iron Dome batteries as part of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. As of now, there are three operational Iron Dome batteries, with another on its way. However, Israel estimates it will need 10-15 to cover its population centers.

“U.S.-Israeli security cooperation is one of our most valued and important arrangements, and given the volatility in the region, one of our most significant. I look forward to continuing that relationship through projects like the Iron Dome,” Portman concluded.