newsU.S.-Israel Relations

US OKs 2,000-lb. bombs, F-35 fighter jets to Israel

More than 1,800 2,000-pound bombs and 500 500-pound bombs, along with 25 F-35 fighter jets were approved for transfer.

A ball of fire and smoke rises during an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.
A ball of fire and smoke rises during an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 9, 2023. Photo by Atia Mohammed/Flash90.

The Biden administration recently authorized billions of dollars in bombs and fighter jets to Israel, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The arms packages included more than 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs, according to Pentagon and State Department officials.

This month, the State Department also authorized the transfer to Israel of 25 F-35A fighter jets and engines worth roughly $2.5 billion, U.S. officials said.

Delivery of both the bombs and the fighter jets and engines was approved by Congress years ago but had not yet been fulfilled.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Defense Writers Group that Israel has not “received everything they’ve asked for,” Reuters reported.

“Some of that is because they’ve asked for stuff that we either don’t have the capacity to provide or not willing to provide, not right now,” Brown said.

The Pentagon later clarified the general’s remarks, “highlighting the issue’s sensitivity,” the Post reported.

“We assess U.S. stockpiles and any possible impact on our own readiness to determine our ability to provide the requested aid,” Navy Capt. Jereal Dorsey, a spokesman for the general, said.

“There is no change in U.S. policy. The United States continues to provide security assistance to our ally Israel as they defend themselves from Hamas,” he added.

A White House official reiterated to the Post, “We have continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself. Conditioning aid has not been our policy.”

However, some Democratic lawmakers have called for conditioning and even cutting off aid to Israel if it doesn’t provide humanitarian assistance to Gazans or violates international law.

Israel has insisted all along that it has allowed aid in and the stumbling bloc is the bureaucratic incompetence of U.N.-affiliated and other groups on the Gaza side of the border.

On Feb. 8, the White House issued National Security Memorandum/NSM-20 in response to Democratic pressure, specifically from outspoken Israel critic Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

The memorandum requires countries using U.S. defense materiel to provide written assurances that they will use them in compliance with international law. Israel responded within the memorandum’s allotted 45-day timeframe.

Administration officials from U.S. President Joe Biden on down continue to oppose a large-scale Israeli ground-troop movement aimed at eliminating the last Hamas military stronghold in Rafah, creating tension with Israel, which remains determined to destroy the last Hamas forces in Gaza’s southernmost city.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on March 19, “We all need to stand united against the attitude of the U.S. that thinks we should not enter Rafah.”

Most Israelis support defeating Hamas in Rafah, according to polls.

Four Hamas battalions—with some 3,000 gunmen—remain in Rafah. Not only Netanyahu, but other members of the wartime emergency government have stressed the need to eliminate Hamas in toto.

Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz, a member of the War Cabinet, told U.S. officials during a visit to Washington on March 4, “Finishing the war without demilitarizing Rafah is like sending in firefighters to put out 80% of a fire.”

Some U.S. observers also have warned of the dangers of allowing Hamas to survive. John Spencer, chairman of urban warfare studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point, told JNS’s Caroline Glick on March 12, that if Hamas survives, it wins.

“[Hamas] did the attack. They wanted the counterattack. And then they wanted to hold in the tunnels … and just buy time for the international community, namely the United States, to stop the IDF in their operations. And then politically, they have gained immense power in the region and around the world as the people who struck at Israel and survived. Their only goal is to survive,” Spencer said.

Nonetheless, Netanyahu acceded to a White House request on March 19 to send a delegation to Washington to hear out the administration on its alternative plans for dealing with Rafah, citing its desire to avoid large-scale casualties.

Netanyahu planned to send Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Council Director Tzachi Hanegbi, but he canceled the delegation on March 25 in protest over Washington’s failure to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that did not link an immediate ceasefire with a call for the release of Israeli hostages.

It was reported later that the delegation’s visit will be rescheduled.

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