analysisU.S.-Israel Relations

Military aid unconditional, but US can ‘delay deliveries’

The $14.3b package pays for supplies already delivered, air defense systems, and precise attack capabilities.

An IAF Apache attack helicopter at an aerial show in honor of an IAF Flight Course graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev, Dec. 29, 2016. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
An IAF Apache attack helicopter at an aerial show in honor of an IAF Flight Course graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev, Dec. 29, 2016. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin
Yaakov Lappin is an Israel-based military affairs correspondent and analyst. He is the in-house analyst at the Miryam Institute; a research associate at the Alma Research and Education Center; and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. He is a frequent guest commentator on international television news networks, including Sky News and i24 News. Lappin is the author of Virtual Caliphate: Exposing the Islamist State on the Internet. Follow him at: www.patreon.com/yaakovlappin.

The latest American military aid package for Israel, worth some $14.3 billion and approved by Congress on April 20 before being signed into law by President Joe Biden on April 23, is unconditional.

However, the Biden administration can still seek to informally delay deliveries over political tensions such as the IDF’s impending Rafah operation, a leading Israeli expert on U.S.-Israeli relations tells JNS.

Professor Eytan Gilboa, of Bar-Ilan University and a senior fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, said that the Biden administration is seeking to differentiate between military and political backings when it comes to Israel.

“While the progressive wing of the Democratic Party demanded conditions for this assistance, with demands to Israel regarding Gaza and Judea and Samaria, this was rejected,” said Gilboa. “This is the biggest defense package Israel received since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.”

Referring to a report on Sunday by Axios, which stated that the U.S. is slowing down deliveries of defense capabilities to Israel, Gilboa said that the Biden administration cannot legally stop the transfers but could slow deliveries down using logistical explanations.

“The approval of $14.3 billion is a direct function of the Iranian attack on Israel [launched early on April 14]. Before that, the package was stuck in Congress, with Democrats and Republicans unable to pass it for months. After the attack, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson (R-La.) made amendments allowing it to pass. Iran was the trigger,” said Gilboa.

He noted that the package does not contain many new weapons but does include commitments to strategic procurements such as Apache attack helicopters and F-35 stealth fighter jets, while much of the funding will go to replenishing Israeli air defense interceptors, heavily used during the war against Hamas.

“I object to the word ‘aid.’ In fact, this is an investment in American military defense industries and in Israel, which contributes to making improvements and trials and technologies in weapons systems. Many American systems feature Israeli components, and the U.S. benefits from strategic Israeli intelligence,” he added.

Gilboa noted that the minority of votes against the package in the House of Representatives and the Senate belong to Democratic progressives, who he said will likely grow in power in the future, cautioning that Israel will “have to deal with this. This is a lesson for the future.”

Israeli defensive capabilities

The package is expected to see deliveries of a wide range of weapons and capabilities that will mostly go to boosting Israeli defensive capabilities, a former Israeli military financial adviser told JNS.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Sasson Hadad, a former financial adviser to the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, and ex-head of the budget division of the Defense Ministry, told JNS that the outline of the assistance would see around $5 billion serve as a reimbursement for American expenses incurred in supplying Israel with weapons and ammunition already delivered, at Washington’s expense, during the current war.

“$1.2 billion is allocated for laser systems; $4 billion is designated for active defense systems—Arrow, Iron Dome, David’s Sling, etc.—and an additional $3.5 billion for general military security assistance,” said Sasson.

“The capabilities to be developed include some that can be procured rapidly and others that may take several years depending on decisions made. It is thought that air defense systems will be produced quickly, while the laser systems will take somewhat longer to develop. The primary improvements [to Israeli capabilities], as I understand it, will focus on air defense—lasers—and preparedness.”

Sasson defined preparedness as “procurement of precise weaponry and similar measures. This support is primarily aimed at bolstering defenses across all fronts.”

The aid will come on top of the $3.8 billion of military assistance that Israel receives per year, as well as additional financial support Israel has received on occasion for producing extra air defense interceptors, such as the $1 billion Congress approved for Iron Dome interceptors in 2022, following a conflict with Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

The latest American package will, according to a recent report by Mako, also include $700 million for tank shells, $120 million for mortar shells, a further $500 million for armored vehicles, and additional, unspecified funds for 155 mm artillery shells, JDAM guidance kits for MK-82 air-to-ground bombs, and hellfire missiles for the Israeli Air Force’s Apache helicopters, the Mako report said.

Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kits convert unguided bombs, or “dumb bombs,” into all-weather precision-guided munitions. 

An additional $3.5 billion has been allocated for purchases by Israel via the American foreign military aid program, which translates to purchases of air platforms such as jets that will make up the third IAF F-35 squadron, aircraft that will be part of a new Israeli squadron of F-15 EX jets, new-generation CH-53 transport helicopters, and Apache attack helicopters.

The American package includes $1 billion for humanitarian aid to Gaza—funding that does not include the expenses involved in setting up the American floating pier, which will cost around $320 million, according to a report by Voice of America.

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