White House responds to Israel’s allegations of weapons delays

Image source, Getty Images

Legend, White House says only one arms shipment to Israel suspended

  • Author, Holly Honderich and Tom Bateman
  • Role, BBC News, Washington

The White House pushed back on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that the United States was withholding weapons and ammunition in Israel, hours after lashing out at the Biden administration.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed that an ongoing pause remained on a particular delivery of bombs, echoing Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s comments hours earlier, but she insisted the fact that no other weapon was retained.

“We really don’t know what he’s talking about,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

In an English-language video on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu rebuked the United States, saying he told Mr. Blinken it was “inconceivable” that weapons and ammunition had been withheld “over the past few months.” .

“America’s closest ally, fighting for its life,” he said of Israel.

In the video, Mr. Netanyahu said he had spoken to Mr. Blinken about the delays and that the secretary of state assured him that he was “working day and night to eliminate bottlenecks.”

At a news conference in Washington, Blinken confirmed that the administration continued to withhold shipments of bombs from Israel due to concerns about their use in urban areas of Gaza, but that the issue remained in the study.

He faced repeated questions from reporters about what exactly he had said to Mr. Netanyahu, but he refused to be persuaded by what he called a diplomatic conversation.

Last month, a senior administration official confirmed to the BBC that the delivery of thousands of 2,000-pound bombs and other bombs had been suspended — the first delay of U.S. munitions to Israel.

The United States is by far Israel’s largest source of arms and munitions. By law, it provides Israel with $3.8 billion (£3 billion) in military aid each year. The US Congress last month passed a bill providing $14 billion in additional military support.

And the Biden administration will make another major arms sale to Israel, including 50 F-15 fighter jets worth more than $18 billion, US media reports, after the approval of two major Democratic recalcitrants.

The deal, first reported by the Washington Post, had been blocked over objections from Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York.

“Any issues or concerns raised by President Cardin have been resolved through our ongoing consultations with the administration,” a spokesperson for Senator Cardin said in a statement to the BBC.

“That is why he deemed it appropriate to allow this matter to move forward.”

Senator Cardin, a staunch supporter of Israel and the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has not publicly expressed these concerns.

Mr. Meeks, whose office was briefed for comment, clearly opposed the sale, citing concerns about Israel’s conduct in its war against Hamas. Mr. Meeks is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I don’t want the type of weapons Israel has to use to result in more deaths,” he said in a CNN interview in April.

But after months of delays and mounting pressure from the Biden administration, Mr. Cardin and Mr. Meeks finally signed the deal several weeks ago, the Post reported.

In his statement, Senator Cardin’s spokesperson Eric Harris said the sale to Israel had undergone a “regular review process.”

Once the consultation process with Congress is complete, the State Department can take the next step: formally notifying Congress of the sale.

If approved, it would be one of the largest arms deals with Israel since the war began in October.

Republicans, meanwhile, continued to criticize the delay in shipping weapons to Israel. Last month, Rep. Russell Fry of South Carolina called the gun hold “reprehensible,” writing on X that “the United States must stand with Israel.

The Israeli military launched a campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7, in which around 1,200 people were killed and 251 others taken hostage.

Since then, more than 37,340 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

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