I can add nothing more to the praise for the Iron Dome, its developers and its operators. Like in Israel, people in Washington are watching with admiration Israel's development, which was the fruit of cooperation between Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and other defense companies, and see it as an additional example of the innovation, daring, ingenuity and technological prowess of Israel — features that have brought the start-up nation much regard in the U.S. The story of the Iron Dome is a metaphor for the story of Israel and an example of Israel's strong ties with its largest ally, the U.S.
Cooperation with the U.S. on missile defense began in the early 1990s, after the First Gulf War, when there was a need to develop the Arrow 2, Arrow 3 and Magic Wand systems, designed to protect against long-range missiles. In 2006, the Second Lebanon War broke out and northern Israel was defenseless against massive Hezbollah rocket fire. A year later, Hamas rocket fire on southern Israeli communities intensified and the need arose to develop a system to defend against short-range missiles. Hence, Israel began to develop the idea of a close-range missile interception system, the Iron Dome. But as most of us know, a complex development like this is not free. It had a price of $200 million — which Israel's defense budget could not bear alone.
To our great luck, we were not forced to meet this burden alone, as our closest ally stood behind us. The interests of the U.S. and Israel are intertwined. The two countries have common strategic interests and hold joint military exercises and intelligence exchanges, among other countless examples of the alliance. As a result of this relationship, the funding basis for most of the Iron Dome batteries lies in a resolution adopted by the U.S. Congress three years ago. At that time, Congress decided to support President Barack Obama's request for more than $200 million to fund the purchase of four Iron Dome batteries, three of which are operational today, including the battery (Israel's fifth overall) that was deployed in Tel Aviv this week and began to intercept rockets from Gaza.
A few months ago, I wrote an article for the American news outlet Politico in which I explained that the Iron Dome not only saves lives but also prevents war and gives a wider diplomatic window for decision-makers. In response to the article, I received dozens of calls from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who wanted only to extend a hand and ask what they could do for Israel. From this, I gathered that Americans, like Israelis, understood the logic behind the wise investment called the Iron Dome and for this we are wholeheartedly thankful to President Obama, Congress, the Pentagon, the White House and all the other entities that were involved in the project. The Iron Dome is the embodiment and manifestation of the close relationship between Israel and the U.S.
Michael Oren is Israel's ambassador to the United States.