Buying Back the Iron Dome

Palestine Center Brief No. 323 (February 11, 2019)

By Mohamed Mohamed

The US Army has announced that it plans to purchase the Iron Dome anti-missile system, which has been developed and produced by Israel’s government-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems company. Iron Dome is a military system that is designed to detect and intercept incoming rockets, artillery, and mortars. It has been operational since 2011 and was used and tested extensively during Israel’s massive assaults on Gaza in 2012 and 2014.  

US Army Colonel Patrick Seiber said in a statement that Iron Dome would be “assessed and experimented” with to protect deployed US military forces.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the sale as “a great achievement for Israel and yet another expression of the strengthening of our powerful alliance with the US.” For Israel, it certainly is a great achievement and it undoubtedly strengthens its self-centered alliance with the US (the benefit is not so mutual for the US).

Why is this Iron Dome sale such a great achievement for Israel, and why is it not such a beneficial deal for the US?

Because, according to a report by Middle East Eye, American taxpayers have provided at least $5.5 billion in funding to develop the system since 2010, and in 2018, the US Congress provided another $705 million for Israeli missile defense projects. At least two-thirds of the Iron Dome’s components are also manufactured by US companies, and they are then assembled by Israel.

So, Israel received billions of dollars in subsidies from Americans for its Iron Dome program, and then managed to sell the system back to the US. Let that sink in, especially if you are an American taxpayer.

In any sort of financial transaction, whether it is with a grocery store or a military contractor, would anyone pay twice for a product or service? No, unless you happen to be the US government.

This situation is obviously ridiculous, but it is unsurprising, considering Israel’s track record. With its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank for more than half a century, Israel maintains control over a huge amount of Palestinian resources, which it exploits to enrich itself.

For example, Israel consumes 86 percent of the water resources in the West Bank. The average Palestinian water consumption for domestic, commercial, and industrial use in the West Bank in 2014 was 79 liters per person per day, while the Israeli average was 287 liters. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 100 liters per day, and that is only for domestic use. Despite this massive inequality, Palestinians in the West Bank are forced to buy back their own water from Israel to meet their needs. In another example, Palestinians sometimes have no choice but to buy Israeli produce grown on their own stolen land.

With such exploitative behavior, it should be expected that Israel would try to sell the Iron Dome back to the US. This could sound astonishing given the highly generous American funding for the system, but even when it comes to its greatest ally, Israel’s conduct is selfish and extremely concerning.

Israel engages in “alarming” levels of espionage against the US. It used stolen information to undermine US diplomacy and also sold stolen American military technology to China. Israel routinely denies entry to American citizens, it murdered American peace activist Rachel Corrie with a bulldozer, and in 1967 it killed 34 American sailors in an attack on the USS Liberty while it was in international waters. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even selfishly commented that the September 11 terrorist attacks were good for Israel. Unquestionably, this is not even close to the behavior of a good ally.

So why is Israel able to continually act this way? Because American presidents and lawmakers do not hold it accountable for its actions. Despite flagrant violations of international law against Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, and others, and despite its disrespect for the US, Israel is always rewarded with generous American military and economic aid, as well as with diplomatic cover at the United Nations.

Even after Benjamin Netanyahu disrespected President Barack Obama by addressing the US Congress without a presidential invitation, Obama still ended up authorizing a record $38 billion-dollar aid package to Israel. American voters, who are the taxpayers that bankroll this insane alliance, must step up and ensure that their elected politicians cease support for Israel as long as it continues to take advantage of its benefactor, shows no respect or regard for its citizens and interests, disregards the human rights of Palestinians under its brutal occupation, arrogantly violates international law, and often leaves it up to the US to clean up after it at a huge political, economic, diplomatic, and moral price. Otherwise, Israel’s behavior will never change.


Mohamed Mohamed is the Executive Director of the Palestine Center. 

The views in this brief are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Jerusalem Fund.