Netanyahu accuses Biden of delaying weapons, US insists arms are flowing

Ahram Online , Wednesday 19 Jun 2024

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday claimed the United States is withholding weapons and implied this was slowing Israel’s attack on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the brutal Israeli war has exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation for Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv in June 2024. AFP


“It’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel,” Netanyahu said, adding, “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster.”

US President Joe Biden has delayed delivering certain heavy bombs to Israel since May over concerns about the killing of civilians in Gaza. However, the administration has gone to lengths to avoid any suggestion that Israeli forces have crossed a red line in the deepening Rafah invasion, which would trigger a more sweeping ban on arms transfers.

Netanyahu's remarks, made on video in English, were one of his harshest public criticisms of the Biden administration since the war in Gaza began about nine months ago.

Netanyahu said in the video that he'd had a "candid conversation" about arms deliveries with Secretary of State Tony Blinken during his last visit to Israel.

"I said it's inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel," Netanyahu said.

He claimed Blinken assured him the administration was working to remove "bottlenecks," adding: "I certainly hope that's the case. It should be the case."

Yet Blinken said Tuesday the only pause in sending weapons to Israel was related to those heavy bombs from May.

“We, as you know, are continuing to review one shipment that President Biden has talked about with regard to 2,000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah,” Blinken said at a news conference. “That remains under review. But everything else is moving as it normally would.”

In April, senior US officials said they do not find "credible or reliable" Israel's assurances that its use of US-supplied weapons in Gaza adheres to international humanitarian law, according to an internal State Department memo seen by Reuters.

A joint submission from four US State Departement raised "serious concern over non-compliance" with international humanitarian law during Israel's prosecution of the Gaza war.

Moreover, US President Joe Biden admited last May that Israel used US bombs on civilians in Gaza.

Biden, in an interview with CNN, said that civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of Israel's use of US bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities, that deal with that problem.”

A Blunt Response

 The White House was also baffled by Netanyahu's claim that Biden is withholding weapons.

"Let me just start off by saying that we genuinely do not know what he's talking about," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

With the exception of "one particular shipment of munitions" that US officials were looking at closely, Jean-Pierre said "there are no other pauses. None."

Netanyahu didn’t elaborate on what weapons were being held back, and the Israeli military declined to respond to a request for comment. Ophir Falk, a foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, deferred questions on details to the US government.

In another blunt response to Netanyahu's video, the White House canceled a high-level US-Israel meeting on Iran that was scheduled for Thursday, two US officials told Axios.

"This decision makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts," a US official said."

Some Israeli officials were already en route to Washington when the meeting was canceled, according to Axios.

Two American officials told Axios the meeting was canceled to send a message about the video.

A third claimed the meeting was postponed rather than canceled, due to a scheduling issue.

Major arms sale to Israel

Netanyahu's remarks came despite the announcement that two top Democrats in Congress cleared on Tuesday the way for a $15 billion US sale of F-15s to Israel to move forward, after a delay while one sought answers from the Biden administration on Israel’s current use of American weapons in the war against the Palestinians in Gaza.

New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the chair of the Senate version of the committee, confirmed Tuesday they had agreed to the deal, for F-15s and related gear that would be delivered by 2029.

Several Democratic lawmakers have urged the Washington to restrict current sales of the kinds of weapons that Israel is using in attacks on population centers and other areas that cause high civilian casualties.

Joe Biden has delayed some arms transfers over civilian deaths in Gaza, but resisted congressional pressure for a more sweeping ban.

“The aircraft in question will not be delivered until years from now and I remain supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself against the real threats posed by Iran and Hezbollah,” Meeks claimed Tuesday.

Meeks’ and Cardin’s Republican counterparts on the two committees earlier gave their approval. The sale now moves to a stage in which the administration formally notifies Congress of the planned sale.

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