U.S. Missile Shipment Delay Over: Israeli Official

White House and State Department announced greater scrutiny of Israeli munitions requests in wake of Gaza operation

AFP

The U.S. arms shipment to Israel that Washington halted two weeks ago will soon go forward, an Israeli official said Monday.

On August 14 the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration had stopped a weapons shipment that was about to leave for Israel. The shipment included Hellfire missiles, which are fired by Apache attack helicopters. Israel had requested the arms for its operation in the Gaza Strip, the paper said, but because of the administration’s tense relationship with Israel and its unhappiness over the high number of Palestinian civilians deaths, it issued an order that all Israeli arms requests would henceforth need personal approval from the White House.

The suspended shipment was a large one that was supposed to be sent by sea, and included various types of arms in addition to the Hellfire missiles.

Over the past few days, Israeli officials have sounded optimistic that the freeze on the shipment would be lifted. One Israeli source said the barriers that had delayed it, which he defined in part as bureaucratic, had now been removed.

A defense source told Haaretz Monday that in light of the progress in Israel’s talks with the administration on this issue, he expected the shipment to depart for Israel soon. However, it isn’t yet clear whether the arms ship has already set sail, or if not, when it will do so.

The U.S. State Department confirmed about 10 days ago that in light of the fighting in Gaza, it had decided to take extra precautions with regard to arms shipments to Israel. Marie Harf, the department’s deputy spokeswoman, said the U.S. was worried by the civilian casualties in Gaza, and “Due to the crisis in Gaza we took additional care like we would take in any crisis … We wanted to look at things a little bit harder.”

Nevertheless, she stressed that arms shipments to Israel had not been embargoed and insisted that there was no change in America’s policy of supporting Israel.