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White House Questions Netanyahu’s Criticism Over Weapons Delay

THE White House has pushed back against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims that the US is “withholding” weapons and ammunition from Israel, hours after he lashed out at the Biden administration.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed an ongoing pause remained on one particular shipment of bombs, echoing comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken hours beforehand, but she insisted no other weapons were being withheld.


“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” Ms Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

Mr Netanyahu’s comments were an attempt to remove the block on a single weapons consignment announced by the White House last month over the way the arms were being used in Gaza.

His office published a video in which he rebuked the US, saying he had told Mr Blinken it was “inconceivable” that weapons and ammunition had been withheld “in the past few months”.

Speaking in English, Mr Netanyahu’s comments were clearly aimed at Mr Blinken.

The video was released an hour before the US secretary of state planned to hold a news conference in Washington and appeared to be an attempt by Mr Netanyahu to grab the agenda.

“America’s closest ally, fighting for its life,” he said of Israel.
Mr Netanyahu said Mr Blinken, who visited Israel last week, assured him he was “working day and night to remove the bottlenecks”.

At the news conference, held in Washington, Mr Blinken confirmed the administration was continuing to hold back a consignment of bombs from Israel over concerns about their use in urban areas of Gaza, but that the issue remained under review.

He faced repeated questions from reporters over exactly what he had told Mr Netanyahu, but he wouldn’t be drawn on what he called a diplomatic conversation.

Mr Netanyahu has frequently tried to appeal to his domestic nationalist base by claiming a unique ability among Israeli politicians to extract concessions from US leaders.

Controversy over the US supplying arms to Israel has grown in America and Europe along with the scale of destruction in Gaza, while the issue has become a lightning rod for protest and dissent.

Mr Netanyahu has adamantly opposed any moves to reduce arms supply.

Last month, a senior administration official confirmed to the BBC that the delivery of thousands of 2000lb and other bombs had been paused – the first delay of US munitions to Israel.

The US is by far Israel’s biggest source of weapons and ammunition.

By law, it provides Israel with $3.8bn (£3bn) of military aid each year.

The US Congress last month passed a bill providing a further $14bn of military support.

And the Biden administration will move forward with another major arms sale to Israel that includes 50 F-15 fighter jets worth more than $18bn, US media report, after two key Democratic holdouts signed off.

The deal, first reported by the Washington Post, had been stalled by the objections of Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland and congressman Gregory Meeks of New York.

“Any issues or concerns Chair Cardin had were addressed through our ongoing consultations with the Administration,” said a spokesperson for Senator Cardin in a statement to the BBC.

“That’s why he felt it appropriate to allow this case to move forward.”

Senator Cardin, a vocal supporter of Israel and the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, did not express those concerns publicly.

Mr Meeks, whose office has been contacted for comment, had been outspoken about his opposition to the sale, citing concerns over Israel’s conduct in its war against Hamas.

Mr Meeks is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I don’t want the kinds of weapons that Israel has to be utilised, to have more death,” he said in an interview with CNN in April.

But after months of delay, and mounting pressure from the Biden administration, both Mr Cardin and Mr Meeks ultimately signed off on the transaction several weeks ago, the Post reported.

In his statement, Senator Cardin’s spokesperson Eric Harris said the sale to Israel had gone through the “regular review process”.

Once the consultation process with Congress is complete, the state department can take the next step of officially notifying Congress of the sale.

If approved, it would be one of the largest arms transactions with Israel since the war began in October.

President Joe Biden has faced growing concerns within his own party over Israel’s handling of the war, and the United States’ continued military support.

Republicans meanwhile have continued to criticise the delay of the shipment of weapons to Israel.

Congressman Russell Fry of South Carolina last month called the weapons holdup “reprehensible”, writing on X that “the United States must stand with Israel. Period”.

The Israeli military launched a campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas in response to an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed and 251 others were taken hostage.

More than 37,340 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry. [BBC]

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