WASHINGTON (CNN) – The White House is asking Congress to approve $205 million to help Israel build a new short-range rocket defense system, Obama administration officials confirmed Friday.
Called the Iron Dome, the security system "addresses Israelis' worries about errant rockets being fired into their homes" and is designed to intercept incoming rockets fired from Lebanon and Gaza, a senior administration official said.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor explained the administration's rationale, saying, "The president recognizes the threat missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israelis, and has therefore decided to seek funding from Congress to support the production of Israel's short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome."
Two senior administration officials said the $205 million would be in addition to the $3 billion the United States spends each year to promote Israel's defense.
"As the president has repeatedly said," Vietor added, "our commitment to Israel's security is unshakable and our defense relationship is stronger than ever. The United States and our ally Israel share many of the same security challenges, from combating terrorism to confronting the threat posed by Iran's nuclear-weapons program."
One senior administration official said Michele Flournoy, U.S. under secretary of defense for policy, called Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday to alert Israeli officials about the administration's new rocket funding.
That official said a U.S. team went to Israel in the fall to see the Israelis work on the Iron Dome system, and came away with the assessment that it was "a system that made sense."
The other senior administration official said the funding is part of an ongoing partnership between the United States and Israel to promote steps "we can jointly take to improve Israel's security." Israel's short-range rocket defense system is "one of the security measures we've been talking [about] with them over time," the senior administration official said.
The Obama administration is helping Israel enhance its security systems, in part, to address Israelis' fears that establishing a Palestinian state will create a safe launching pad for rocket attacks. The administration is
continuing to nudge Israel to resume talks with the Palestinians.