Tensions Flare on U.S. House Floor Over Israel Defense Funding

An effort to allocate $1 billion toward Israel's Iron Dome defense system prompted a heated debate on the U.S. House floor on Thursday, with multiple Republican members lobbing accusations of anti-Semitism.

Representative Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat and the only Palestinian American member of Congress, told her colleagues in a fiery floor speech that she would be voting against the measure because of her views on Israel.

"I will not support an effort to enable and support war crimes, human rights abuses and violence," she said. "The Israeli government is an apartheid regime."

Shortly after Tlaib's argument against the bill, Representative Chuck Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican, sharply rebuked Tlaib, gesturing toward the Democratic side of the chamber.

"The truth has finally come out on the floor of the House in the United States of America," he said. "We heard right now from my colleague across the aisle, a shocking statement—she opposes this because they have a vocal minority in the majority party that is anti-Israel, that is anti-Semitic and as Americans, we can never stand for that."

Representative Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, ditched his prepared remarks also to respond directly to Tlaib's speech.

"I cannot allow one of my colleagues to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and label the Jewish democratic state of Israel an apartheid state," he said. "To falsely characterize the state of Israel is consistent with those who, let's be clear, it's consistent with those who advocate for the dismantling of the one Jewish state in the world."

"When there is no place on the map for one Jewish state, that's anti-Semitism and I reject that," Deutch added.

During a May conflict, Hamas terrorists launched hundreds of rockets at Israel. Most were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.

The latest legislation, meant to replenish the Iron Dome's missiles after those violent clashes in the region, is expected to overwhelmingly pass with bipartisan support. Tlaib was the only member to speak out against it Thursday and one of just nine members who voted against moving the measure forward.

The Israel defense funding became a flashpoint for House Democrats earlier this week as the Democrat-led chamber attempted to advance a stop-gap spending measure meant to fund the government through early December and prevent a federal shutdown next week.

Tlaib and progressive allies said they wouldn't vote for the larger spending plan unless the Iron Dome funding was stripped. The move was the latest signal of division among Democrats over the United States' treatment of Israel. Republicans, especially in the House, have repeatedly accused far-left Democrats who oppose support for Israel of anti-Semitism.

During Thursday's debate on the stand-alone Israel bill, several Democrats spoke emphatically in support of the U.S. ally.

"Support for Israel has traditionally, and must always be, a bipartisan issue," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said on the floor. "That's because we overwhelmingly recognize the fundamental right of the Jewish people to live independently in their ancestral homeland and to do so in peace and in security."

Correction 09/23/2021, 6:37 p.m. ET: This article was updated to reflect that Representative Ted Deutch is a Democrat, not a Republican.

Rashida Tlaib opposes funding for Israel defense
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) spoke out against the Israeli government during a speech on the House floor on September 23, earning rebukes from her colleagues. Pictured, Tlaib wears a protective mask while walking through the Canon Tunnel to the U.S. Capitol on January 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images