Gaza war highlights long pipeline of US weapons to Israel – Top Stories (Trending Perfect)


In the fall of 2016, the Obama administration concluded a major military agreement with Israel that obligated the United States to provide Israel with weapons worth $38 billion over 10 years.

“The continued supply of the world's most advanced weapons technology will ensure that Israel has the ability to defend itself from all types of threats,” President Barack Obama said.

At the time, the agreement was uncontroversial. It was a period of relative calm for Israel, and few officials in Washington expressed concern about how American weapons might one day be used.

Now the military aid package, which guarantees Israel $3.3 billion annually for weapons purchases, along with another $500 million annually for missile defense, has become a flashpoint for the Biden administration. A vocal minority of lawmakers in Congress, backed by liberal activists, are demanding that President Biden restrict or even halt arms shipments to Israel over its military campaign in Gaza.

Mr. Biden has sharply criticized what he once called “indiscriminate bombing” in Israel’s war campaign, but has resisted placing limits on American military aid.

The United States and Israel have enjoyed close military relations for decades, spanning multiple Democratic and Republican administrations. Israel purchased much of its vital equipment from the United States, including fighter jets, helicopters, air defense missiles, and both Not directed And Guided bombsWhich was shot down in Gaza. The legislation stipulates that the US government assist Israel in maintaining force superiority – or “its power.”Qualitative military superiority“- on other Middle Eastern countries.

The process of delivering weapons to Israel is murky, and the arms pipeline into the country is long. The United States has sent tens of thousands of weapons into the country since the October 7 killings by Hamas attackers, but many of them were approved by Congress and the State Department long ago and financed with money provided for by the Obama-era agreement, known as the Comprehensive peace. Memorandum of Understanding.

“At any given time, these sales are delivered on an ongoing basis,” said Dana Strohl, who recently left as the Pentagon's top official for the Middle East.

Biden has the authority to limit any foreign arms shipments, even those previously approved by Congress. However, instead of cutting Israel off, he is pushing through a request he made shortly after the October 7 attacks for $14 billion in additional arms aid for the country and U.S. military operations in the Middle East. The money has been stalled in Congress amid disagreements over aid to Ukraine and US border security and faces growing Democratic concerns.

because of Legal loopholeThe State Department does not have to tell Congress and the public about some of the new weapons requests Israel has made since October 7 since it approved them. It falls under a certain dollar value. Congressional officials criticized the secrecy, which contrasts with the Biden administration's public uproar over arms shipments to Ukraine.

Since the Hamas attacks, State Department officials have continued to authorize arms shipments to Israel in tranches of orders, or what officials call “cases,” that were previously approved by the department and Congress — often years ago, and often delivered In installments over more than a year. long time. Officials describe this step as a formality. These authorizations have taken place almost daily in recent weeks, and are in line with Mr. Biden's policy of providing full support to Israel.

But Mr. Biden hinted on Thursday at a possible shift. In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden warned that US policy could change if Israel does not take more action to protect civilians and aid workers in Gaza, according to a White House summary of the conversation.

Israel regularly receives weapons from the US Department of Defense, as well as directly from American arms makers. The largest gun orders are often filled over a period of years in smaller batches of specific items. In such cases, arms buyers like Israel come to the US government saying they are willing to pay for part of the order.

When the Department of Defense supplies weapons — which include the most expensive weapons systems — the State Department requires the Pentagon to issue a letter of acceptance to the buyer. This authorization is often a formality, and having the buyer sign it means there is now a legal contract to fill this part of the larger order.

The State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which manages foreign defense relations and arms transfers, typically acts within two days of hearing a buyer's request to inform the Department of Defense that the letter has been issued. If defense officials decided to fill the case by placing an order with an American weapons manufacturer, assembly and shipping would typically take years.

To meet Israel's immediate needs since October 7, defense officials have relied on US military stockpiles, including one in Israel.

Israel and other countries also sign direct contracts with American arms makers. These orders are subject to State Department review (and sometimes Congressional review, depending on the price). The State Department regularly issues four-year export licenses to companies Provides less general information On commercial orders.

Israel is awaiting State Department approval for 24,000 assault rifles it has ordered before October 7, a direct trade order that has drawn scrutiny from some department officials and lawmakers over Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

US officials said that since October 7, Israel has asked the United States to expedite the filling of long-standing requests. State and Pentagon officials have complied.

Given the politics surrounding Israel, any change will have to come from Mr. Biden.

Israel's recent orders – and the resulting withdrawal from the US stockpile – have included munitions ranging from 250 to 2,000 pound bombs. A US official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivities and ambiguity surrounding arms sales, said many of the cases involved 500-pound bombs.

Some of what Israel has requested since October 7 is aimed at strengthening its defenses against actors besides Hamas, including Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias in the region, as well as Iran itself. American officials say one reason for their reluctance to limit arms sales to Israel is the risk of weakening its deterrence against these enemies.

Shortly before seven World Food Kitchen aid workers were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Monday, State Department officials asked the Pentagon to issue a letter of acceptance to Israel on the munitions situation, US officials said.

This payment comes on the heels of other shipments sent to Israel over the years to fulfill large munitions orders approved by Congress and the State Department in 2012 and 2015, US officials said.

On rare occasions, the assistant secretary of state has asked department officials to refrain from telling their counterparts at the Pentagon to issue an acceptance letter because of concerns about the client country, said Josh Paul, who resigned from the department's political-military office in October in protest. Mr. Biden's war policy.

“They can say, ‘You know, we've changed our mind,'” Paul said, stressing that senior US officials could intervene at any time before a client receives a title.

Since October 7, Israel has submitted new requests. The State Department only needs to notify Congress when the price is above a certain threshold. This amount varies depending on the country and type of military assistance. If Israel requests a major weapons system, the department only informs Congress if the value of the tranche is more than $25 million.

Congressional officials are pressing the State Department to provide them with more information about this matter Orders that fall below the price threshold.

However, at least three of the new Israeli orders have passed the threshold required for congressional review — and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has exceeded it twice. Last December, Mr. Blinken used rare emergency power to avoid legislative review and pass two such orders totaling $253 million, relating to tank ammunition and artillery shells. The Pentagon then withdrew from US stockpiles to quickly send them to Israel.

The State Department notified Congress in January about a third deal, an $18 billion order for F-15 aircraft placed by Israel after October 7. The ministry is seeking approval from four lawmakers on two congressional committees to oversee arms transfers. A US official said that two Republicans agreed to the order in January, and it appears that two Democrats have not yet done so.

The Biden administration is pressing Democratic lawmakers to approve the order, after which the State Department will formally notify it. This request is the largest of its kind from Israel in years. One official said the first planes would not be delivered until 2029 at the earliest.

Israeli officials are expected to place an order for the F-35s soon, US officials said.

“The problem with this American generosity is that it has generated a sense of entitlement among Israelis over the years,” said Martin Indyk, special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the Obama administration.

He added that Israel's dependence on the United States had grown “significantly because its deterrence capacity collapsed on October 7,” noting that Israel would need the US military to help repel major attacks by Hezbollah or Iran. He added that the Biden administration needs to use this influence to shape the behavior of the Israeli government.

Within the State Department, there has been some dissent over arms transfers, which was reflected in three cables sent to Mr. Blinken last fall and in an internal exchange after the White House’s latest move.

Mr. Biden It issued a national security memorandum in February Require all recipients of US military assistance to provide written promises that their forces abide by international law. The aim of this step was to defuse the growing pressure in Congress.

Critics say the practice adds little to existing US requirements that recipients of military aid adhere to international and humanitarian law.

After Israel She made her assurances last monthA US official said officials in the State Department's two offices that focus on human rights and refugees raised concerns with Mr. Blinken about Israel's commitment. But Mr. Blinken accepted Israel's guarantees.

Speaking generally, Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said last month that when it comes to Israel, US officials “have ongoing assessments about their compliance with international humanitarian law.”



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