update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Netanyahu cites ‘dramatic drop’ in US arms supplies

"After months with no change in the situation, I decided to express my concerns publicly," said the Israeli leader.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with soldiers from Yahalom, a special unit of the Combat Engineering Corps, at the IDF's Immanuel Base near Kiryat Malachi, Oct. 24, 2023. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with soldiers from Yahalom, a special unit of the Combat Engineering Corps, at the IDF's Immanuel Base near Kiryat Malachi, Oct. 24, 2023. Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO.

There has been a steep drop in American weapons shipments to the Israel Defense Forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, days after accusing Washington of withholding military aid.

“Around four months ago, there was a dramatic decrease in the supply of armaments arriving from the U.S. to Israel,” the premier explained in Hebrew remarks ahead of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

“For many weeks, we appealed to our American friends to speed up the shipments. We did this time and time again. We did this at the highest levels, and on all levels, and I want to emphasize: We did this behind closed doors,” said Netanyahu, according to a readout from his office.

While Jerusalem received “all kinds of explanations,” the U.S. allegedly failed to fast-track the expected military aid. “Specific items trickled in, but the bulk of armaments were left behind,” charged Netanyahu.

In a video message published on June 18, Netanyahu went public with the dispute, saying it was “inconceivable” for the administration to withhold weapons and ammunition during its war with Hamas in Gaza.

“Israel, America’s closest ally, [is] fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies,” he said in the clip, adding that Secretary of State Antony Blinken assured Israel this month that “the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks.”

The premier said on Sunday that “after months with no change in the situation, I decided to express my concerns publicly,” noting that his experience has taught him that this was “essential” to unblocking the arms shipments.

“As prime minister of Israel, my role is to do everything to ensure that our heroic fighters have the best means of combat,” said Netanyahu.

“I expected that this would lead to personal attacks against me at home and abroad, as happened when I opposed the nuclear deal with Iran, as continues to happen when I opposed the establishment of a Palestinian terrorist state, and as is happening now because I oppose ending the war while leaving Hamas standing,” he said.

“In light of what I have heard during the past day, I hope and believe that the issue will be resolved in the near future. But I would like to stress, and I have also told our American friends. We have one measure, and it has always tipped the scales: The courage and perseverance of our fighters—and with this weapon, we will win,” Netanyahu said.

Very slow

In March, a senior Israeli official first told ABC News that Washington had begun slow-walking military aid. According to the official, who spoke anonymously, at the beginning of the war shipments were coming “very fast,” but Jerusalem is “now finding that it’s very slow.”

The official said he was not sure what the cause was, but that Jerusalem was aware of President Joe Biden’s frustration with the conflict and his demand that Israel do more to provide humanitarian supplies to Gaza.

The reports of delays in U.S. arms shipments came as the IDF was making its final preparations for a ground invasion of Rafah, the last Hamas terrorist stronghold, located in the southern part of the Strip.

Last month, administration officials confirmed a decision to withhold the delivery of thousands of bombs to Israel amid U.S. concerns that the Israeli military would use them during the operation in Rafah.

The announcement came as Biden said that he would halt the shipment of offensive weapons if Jerusalem went ahead with the plans.

“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,” Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett in a May 8 interview.

Netanyahu reportedly told Blinken during a June 10 meeting that while Israel would continue to fight even without U.S. support, the arms embargo gave Iranian-backed Hamas and Hezbollah a strategic edge, raising the chances of a prolonged war on multiple fronts in the Middle East.

Asked about Netanyahu’s remarks at a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday, Blinken said that a single shipment of 2,000-pound bombs remains under review, but that all of the other arms deliveries are moving forward.

Asked if Netanyahu was telling the truth, Blinken told reporters, “I’m not going to talk about what we said in diplomatic conversations.”

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