President Biden on Wednesday toured a display of Israeli air defense systems at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, as the Israelis are seeking American investment in its new laser-based system, known as the Iron Beam.
The showcase of Israeli systems came shortly after Biden arrived in Israel for his short tour of the Middle East, during which he will also visit the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. According to The Times of Israel, the weapons display included the long-range Arrow, medium-range David’s Sling, short-range Iron Dome, and the new Iron Beam.
The Iron Beam is meant to work in tandem with the Iron Dome, and the idea is since it uses lasers, ammunition will be much cheaper than other systems. Israeli officials have said the Iron Beam could be ready to be deployed to the Gaza border as soon as next year, although some media reports have said it won’t be operational for a few years.
A US official told the Times on Wednesday that Biden was expected to announce his approval for the US military-industrial complex to begin talks with their Israeli counterparts on purchasing the Iron Beam, but no announcement has yet been made. US support for the project could also come in the form of military aid.
Of the $3.8 billion in military aid that Israel receives each year from the US, $500 million goes towards missile defense systems. But Israel has been seeking more and secured an extra $1 billion to replenish the Iron Dome that it requested after Israel’s May 2021 bombing campaign in Gaza that killed over 250 Palestinians, including over 60 children. The extra $1 billion was included in an omnibus spending bill Biden signed into law back in March.
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz thanked Biden for providing the extra aid. “Under your rule, honorable president, security cooperation in the region has intensified and expanded in an unprecedented manner and Israel is grateful for this and also for your support with record US security assistance that included a billion dollars to replenish Iron Dome interceptors,” Gantz said.
Gantz also briefed the president on Israel’s increasing military cooperation with Arab countries in the region, which is set to be a major focus of Biden’s trip to the region. Biden is expected to push for more Israeli-Arab cooperation at a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit he will attend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as part of an effort to build an anti-Iran military alliance.