"Defense News" reports that the Bush administration is considering ways to help Israel develop defenses against short-range rockets, including $200 million in aid for developing and deploying the Iron Dome system. The Iron Dome is intended to protect Sderot and other communities near the Gaza Strip from Kassam rockets. A joint US-Israeli committee, set up last year by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, is due to submit its recommendations on ways to help Israel towards the end of summer.
A senior Ministry of Defense official told "Defense News" that the full cost of developing the Iron Dome and procuring enough of interceptors and support systems to protect civilian areas along Israel's southern borders could reach $310 million. Israel has spent $25 million to date on the program. The joint committee is now considering Israel's request that the US fund 65% of the outstanding cost.
"Defense News" quotes the Ministry of Defense official as saying, "We're not only asking for aid in financing, although such financing in itself is very important to us. We're offering the Americans to join us as full partners and to use the system to protect their forces and assets around the world."
Department of Defense spokesman Lt.-Col. Mark Ballesteros said in response, "We're cooperating with Israel on its Arrow program, and we're also examining options for finding a response to future ballistic missile threats."
In addition to the Iron Dome program, US and Israeli technical experts are examining the deployment of X-band mobile radar systems in Israel, after 70 Members of Congress approached President George W. Bush on the matter in May.
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