Obama Grants More Funds for Israel Defense after Bulgaria Attack
US President Barack Obama said Friday he is releasing an additional USD 70 M for Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense syste, while citing the July 18 anti-Israeli terrorist attack in Bulgaria's Burgas as evidence for global security challenges.
Obama's statement on Friday follows up on the previously announced move that appeared timed to upstage Republican rival Mitt Romney's trip to Israel this weekend, Israeli news site ynetnews.com reported.
The stepped-up US aid, first announced in May, will go to help Israel expand production of the short-range rocket defense system, which has proved successful at stopping rocket attacks fired at Israeli civilians from close range, including from Gaza.
Obama announced the new military assistance as he signed a bill in the Oval Office expanding military and civilian cooperation with Israel.
"As many of you know, I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues, intelligence, military, technology," Obama said during the signing ceremony.
"And in many ways, what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen really at an unprecedented level between our two countries to underscore our unshakable commitment to Israel's security," the US leader stated.
"Let me just close by saying that the tragic events that we saw in Bulgaria emphasize the degree to which this continues to be a challenge not just for Israel but for the entire world - preventing terrorist attacks making and sure that the people of Israel are not targeted. And I hope that as I sign this bill, once again everybody understands how committed all of us are, Republicans and Democrats, as Americans, to our friends and making sure that Israel is safe and secure," he said.
Obama said he was "very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce million in additional spending...For Iron Dome. This is a program that has been critical in terms of providing security and safety for Israeli families. It is a program that has been tested and has prevented missile strikes inside of Israel. And it is testimony to the leadership of the folks sitting here that we're going to be able to lock in that funding to assure that that program continues and that we are standing by our friends in Israel when it comes to these kinds of attacks," he said.
Jewish members of Congress Howard Berman and Barbara Boxer, who initiated the legislation, were on hand for the signing ceremony.
Ynetnews.com points out that the White House focus on Israel this week comes as Romney prepares to visit Jerusalem. The presumptive GOP nominee is a critic of Obama's policy toward Israel and has promised to ramp up US aid to the Jewish state, although Obama officials say the administration already provides record levels of funding.
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