WASHINGTON — Representative Ayanna Pressley on Tuesday was among eight Democrats to vote against $1 billion in funding for Israel’s aerial defense system after a handful of progressives forced Democratic leadership to strip the funding from an earlier bill to avert a government shutdown earlier this week.
In a statement to the Globe, Pressley said she was not against Israel’s right to protect its people through the use of its “Iron Dome,” which intercepts rockets, calling the responsibility “one of the fundamental roles of a sovereign state.”
But she said she disapproved of the way Congress sought to pass the measure — as a standalone bill without enough notice or time for debate, and on the same week the House planned to advance another defense proposal through regular channels.
“If we can’t move with urgency on critical domestic spending in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, there’s no reason we should move this way on military spending,” she said.
Democrats stripped the funding from must-pass budget legislation and passed it as its own measure after a group of progressives, denouncing the Jewish state for human rights abuses against Palestinians, effectively threatened to shut down the government over supporting the money.
The bill passed overwhelmingly 420 to 9, but emotions nevertheless ran high as at least one Democrat appeared to accuse Representative Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman elected to Congress, of antisemitism for her comments against the dome funding. On the House floor, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was seen crying after she changed her vote on the funding from “no” to “present.”
She and Pressley have been among a small but growing group of Democrats who have questioned the US for sending Israel billions of dollars in aid amid an escalation of violence against Palestinians last spring. But unlike Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives, Pressley in 2019 voted to condemn a movement to financially boycott Israel.
“What I heard resounding in community was that voting yes on this resolution affirmed to my constituents raised in the Jewish faith Israel’s right to exist, a view I share as a supporter of a two-state solution,” she said at the time.
A year later, Pressley condemned then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to annex areas of the West Bank. She became more vocal in May as the violence escalated in Israel, saying US funding was used “to demolish Palestinian homes, imprison Palestinian children, and displace Palestinian families.”
But Pressley’s comments on her Iron Dome vote on Thursday stuck to process. She said her own recent requests to expedite key bills to the floor in a standalone fashion, including a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic, have been denied.
“I remain consistent in my commitment to working towards long overdue parity in our domestic and defense spending,” she said.