Netanyahu asked Panetta to approve sale of bunker-busting bombs, U.S. official says
Top administration source says Obama instructed Defense Secretary to work with Defense Minister Barak, to give all due consideration to the request for purchasing GBU-28 bombs, advanced refueling aircraft.
WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu requested the United States approve the sale of advanced refueling aircraft as well as GBU-28 bunker-piercing bombs to Israel during a recent meeting with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The American official said that U.S. President Barack Obama instructed Panetta to work directly with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the matter, indicating that the U.S. administration was inclined to look favorably upon the request as soon as possible.
During the administration of former U.S. President George Bush, the U.S. refused to sell bunker-penetrating bombs and refueling aircrafts to Israel, as a result of American estimates that Israel would then use them to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
Following Obama's entrance into the White House, however, the United States approves a string of Israeli requests to purchase advance armament.
Diplomatic cables exposed by the WikiLeaks website exposed discussion concerning advanced weapons shipments. In one cable which surveyed defense discussions between Israel and the United states that took place on November 2009 it was written that "both sides then discussed the upcoming delivery of GBU-28 bunker busting bombs to Israel, noting that the transfer should be handled quietly to avoid any allegations that the USG is helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran."
Another issue raised during Obama's Monday meeting with Netanyahu was the Syrian crisis. Netanyahu pointed out that Israel feared that chemical and biological weapons from Syrian army stockpiles could end up in the hands of Hezbollah or other terror groups.
A top U.S. official indicated that the United States recently discussed the issue with Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, in an attempt to prepare for the possibility that a collapse of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad would endanger the country's WMD stockpiles.
At this point the American administration does not possess information that indicates that chemical or biological weapons were passed from Syria to Hezbollah.
Netanyahu and Obama also discussed the ongoing diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey. The United States feels that, amid ongoing unrest, that there existent a supreme interest to rehabilitate Jerusalem-Ankara ties. Obama told Netanyahu at the meeting that an effort should be exerted to reconcile between the two states.