During a televised Oval Office statement on Friday morning, President Barack Obama mistakenly said that the U.S. would be giving Israel $70 billion for an anti-missile program.
A seated Obama announced the increased foreign aid, accompanied by several standing members of Congress who he thanked for “shepherding through this bipartisan piece of legislation that underscores our unshakable commitment to Israel.”
“As many of you know,” he said, “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, 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 committment to Israel’s security.”
To that effect, Obama shared, “I’m also very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce $70 million in additional spending — $70 billion, excuse me, 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.”
It is unclear why Obama was unfamiliar with the amount of the foreign aid increase.
Reuters reports that “Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget request calls for $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel, part of a 10-year, $30 billion U.S. commitment, none of which was scheduled to fund Iron Dome.”
After meeting with Israeli officials, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in May disclosed that the administration would seek provide an additional $70 million for Iron Dome.
The program is specifically designed to shoot down rockets from Hezbollah-controlled areas of southern Lebanon and from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Iron Dome has received U.S. foreign aid in the past. In May 2010, a bipartisan bill supported by Obama approved a $205 million donation to Israel for the program. Only four House members voted no.
The televised gaffe comes one day after an ad paid for by a pro-Israel advocacy group appeared in 23 newspapers highlighting liberal criticism of Obama’s supposed lack of support for Israel.