WASHINGTON - The US House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly backed President Barack Obama's plans to help Israel deploy an anti-missile system, in an unmistakable election-year show of support.
By a 410-4 margin, lawmakers endorsed Obama's plan to give Israel 205 million dollars for its production of a short-range rocket defense system called "Iron Dome."
"With nearly every square inch of Israel at risk from rocket and missile attacks, we must ensure that our most important ally in the region has the tools to defend itself," said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman.
"The looming threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the persistent threat posed by Iran's allies Hamas and Hezbollah, only serve to reinforce our longstanding commitment to Israel's security," the California Democrat added.
Israel completed tests in January on its Iron Dome system, designed to intercept short-range rockets and artillery shells fired at Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah.
The next phase is to integrate the system into the army. Israel hopes the Iron Dome will help counter rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and from Lebanon.
Palestinian militants have fired thousands of home-made rockets into southern Israel, prompting Israel's devastating assault on the Islamist Hamas in Gaza on December 27, 2008.
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah also fired some 4,000 rockets into northern Israel during a 2006 war with Israel. The group is believed to have an arsenal of some 40,000 rockets.
The vote did not actually free up any funds for Iron Dome, but put the US Congress on record as supporting the plan.
It came after ties between Israel and its key ally the United States were strained when plans for new Israeli settler homes in east Jerusalem were announced just as US Vice President Joe Biden visited the Jewish state.
Behind the legislative effort is Congressman Glenn Nye, who having spent time working in the Middle East noted the importance of relations between the US and Israel for both countries' security. He stressed the significance of providing Israel with means to defend itself from terrorist attacks.