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Republican Congressman, pro-Israel group spar over Iron Dome funding

Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a critic of foreign aid, was the only Republican to vote against funding for Israel's Iron Dome last week.
Iron dome

A Republican Congressman is in a war of words with a pro-Israel group over his vote against funding for Israel’s aerial defense system. 

The US House of Representatives passed a $1 billion funding bill for Israel’s Iron Dome last week. A few progressive Democrats voted against the bill, as did one Republican: Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. The Iron Dome is an air defense system that prevents rockets from the Gaza Strip from hitting Israel. 

Massie is regularly described as a libertarian, and has voted against multiple defense spending bills. He has also voted for restrictions on US military action in Iran and Syria in defiance of former President Donald Trump. In 2016, he was named an advisor of the Ron Paul Institute, which is led by the eponymous former Congressman known for his anti-war and libertarian beliefs. Massie’s opposition to the Iron Dome bill is in line with his overall opposition to foreign aid to any country.

The leading pro-Israel lobby group in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), ran an ad against Massie after the vote, which read “When Israel faced rocket attacks, Thomas Massie voted against Iron Dome.”

Massie responded by tweeting a picture of the ad Monday, insinuating that AIPAC was interfering in US elections on behalf of Israel.

“How is THIS not foreign interference in our elections?” he tweeted. The tweet may have also been a reference to the allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump. 

AIPAC then responded on Twitter, saying that their work is in line with US interests and democracy. 

“We are proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship. Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests,” said the lobby group. “We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work.” 

The exchange led to a controversy on social media, and was picked up by The Times of Israel on Tuesday. Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell also criticized Massie on Twitter Monday for characterizing AIPAC, which is an American organization, as a foreign entity. Massie responded by calling Swalwell a “‘foreign affairs’ expert” in relation to the latter’s past relationship with a Chinese government spy

Spokespeople for Massie did not respond to Al-Monitor’s request for comment Tuesday.

Massie’s opposition to aid for Israel contrasts somewhat with the positions of the Democrats who voted against the Iron Dome funding. Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, for example, are vocal critics of Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, whereas Massie is critical of foreign aid across the board and not necessarily an opponent of the Israeli government. Massie retweeted a video ostensibly showing an anti-vaccine passport protest in Tel Aviv this week.

The Iron Dome bill will next head to the Senate after passing in the House. 

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