update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Report: US holding up sale of thousands of precision weapons to Israel

The Biden administration is effectively delaying the delivery of up to 6,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

An Israeli F-35I of the 5601 Testing Squadron, bearing Mk-84 bombs fitted with GBU-31 JDAM kit, before bunker-buster bombs dropping test, July 2023. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
An Israeli F-35I of the 5601 Testing Squadron, bearing Mk-84 bombs fitted with GBU-31 JDAM kit, before bunker-buster bombs dropping test, July 2023. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Biden administration has held up the delivery of thousands of precision weapons to Israel amid the Jewish state’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which entered a new phase overnight Monday as Israeli forces began to push into Rafah city.

According to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday, citing officials familiar with the deal, at issue is the sale of up to 6,500 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs)—a guidance kit that converts “dumb bombs” into “smart” precision-guided munitions.

The weapons shipments are being held up to send a political message, a separate report by Politico cited a U.S. official as saying on Tuesday.

Congress was first informed of the proposed sale, worth some $269 million, in January. However, since then, the Biden administration has not moved forward with the deal.

White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby on Monday declined to comment on whether any arms sales had been postponed, telling reporters at the White House press briefing that “our security commitments to Israel are ironclad.”

The State Department must notify Congress of an arms sale to a foreign country when the sale’s dollar amount rises above a certain level, but the administration never followed up with the official notification of the JDAMs sale, the Journal reported. This caused “an effective pause” in the deal, current and former U.S. officials said.

“It’s unusual, especially for Israel, especially during a war,” a congressional official familiar with the arms sales process told the Journal.

The reason for the delay is unknown, but the Biden administration opposes a full-scale invasion of Rafah, citing humanitarian concerns.

The IDF began a targeted operation in Gaza’s southernmost city overnight Monday, taking control of the Rafah border crossing, which was preceded by evacuation notices for noncombatants in eastern Rafah, who were directed to a new, expanded humanitarian zone at Al-Mawasi.

The Journal report comes after Axios reported on Sunday that the Biden administration had halted a shipment of ammunition to Israel.

According to the U.S. news outlet, last week’s decision to place the shipment on hold left the Israeli government concerned, as it marked the first time since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre that the United States had halted military aid to the Israel Defense Forces.

The White House reportedly declined to comment on the report, while the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. State Department and the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office didn’t immediately respond to questions from Axios.

An unnamed Israeli official downplayed the report, telling the Israeli news website Ynet that “the flow continues” and Jerusalem was “not aware of a policy decision to stop it.”

“Even now, a continued series of defense shipments are being sent from the United States to Israel,” the official stated, while acknowledging that “one shipment or another may be delayed.”

Republican leaders responded to the Axios report, with House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana calling it “wholly unacceptable.”

“Israel, our closest ally in the Middle East, is under attack, but the Biden Administration is yet again caving to the pro-Hamas wing of his party. The administration must end this pause immediately,” Johnson wrote.

Former vice president Mike Pence wrote that it “better not be true. America stands with Israel.” While former secretary of state Mike Pompeo wrote that “cutting off military aid to Israel would be indefensible. It would be a betrayal of a close ally fighting a defensive war.”

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