07/30/2014 10:00 am ET Updated Jul 30, 2014

Alison Lundergan Grimes: Iron Dome Helps Israel Defend Against Terrorists In Tunnels

Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes drew attention Tuesday with a remark about Israel's famed air defense system known as the Iron Dome.

Asked about the missile system at a rally in front of her new headquarters in Fayette County, Grimes had this to say, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader:

"Obviously, Israel is one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, and she has the right to defend herself," Grimes said. "But the loss of life, especially the innocent civilians in Gaza, is a tragedy. The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in.

"My hope is that a cease-fire can be structured. Ultimately, I think the long-term solution though is not one we can impose. It has to come from within. It's a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine."

The current Kentucky secretary of state delivered an answer largely in line with the Obama administration on the latest conflict in the Middle East; she defended Israel's right to defend itself and mourned the tremendous loss of life in Gaza.

But her description of the Iron Dome system drew criticism from Republicans, including those at the National Republican Senatorial Committee who argued Grimes wasn't ready for prime time.

"Frankly it's embarrassing that a Senate candidate would say this," NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen said. "Alison Lundergan Grimes is now a year into her candidacy and is still fundamentally unprepared to answer basic questions and has failed to provide any sort of substantive policy plan."

The Iron Dome system operates in the air, intercepting rockets fired by Hamas using ground-to-air missiles. It does not defend Israel from Hamas-built underground tunnels, the destruction of which Israel has cited as a reason for its latest campaign into Gaza.

In a statement passed along by her campaign on Wednesday, Grimes clarified that the Iron Dome allows Israel to focus its military resources against the threat of tunnels.

"The Iron Dome is an integral part of Israel's defense system which allows them to defend themselves against missiles and focus their efforts on eradicating the terrorists who try to tunnel their way in," she said.

The Democrat is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the fall. The incumbent currently leads Grimes, 47.5 percent to 44.5 percent, in the latest HuffPost Pollster polling average.

Congressional lawmakers this week are debating a $225 million missile aid package for Israel, which would bolster its defenses against a barrage of Palestinian rocket fire.



Senate Seats Up For Grabs In 2014