U.S. Halts Missile Transfer Requested by Israel

Wall Street Journal reports supply of Hellfire missiles canceled, U.S. officials demanding to review Israeli requests on individual basis.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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An Israeli Air Force Apache helicopter firing flares in the sky above the Israel-Gaza border July 30, 2014.
An Israeli Air Force Apache helicopter firing flares in the sky above the Israel-Gaza border July 30, 2014. Credit: Reuters
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

The White House has instructed the Pentagon and the U.S. military to put on hold a transfer of Hellfire missiles that Israel had requested during its recent operation in the Gaza Strip, the Wall Street Journal reports.

According to the report, during Israel's Operation Protective Edge, White House officials were dismayed to discover how little influence they wield over the topic of Israeli arms shipments, against the backdrop of the U.S. government's unhappiness with the widespread damage inflicted upon Palestinian civilians.

During the Gaza war, the report said, White House officials came to realize that large amounts of weaponry are being passed to Israel via direct channels to the Pentagon, with little oversight by the political arena.

In light of that, and against the backdrop of American displeasure over IDF tactics used in the Gaza fighting and the high number of civilian casualties caused by Israel's massive use of artillery fire rather than more precise weapons, officials in the White House and the State Department are now demanding to review every Israeli request for American arms individually, rather than let them move relatively unchecked through a direct military-to-military channel, a fact that slows down the process.

According to a senior U.S. official, the decision to tighten oversight and require approval of higher-ranking officials over shipments, was intended to make clear to Israel that there is no "blank check" from Washington in regards to the U.S.-made weapons the IDF makes use of in its Gaza operations.

The United States is Israel's strongest friend, a senior official in the Obama administration told the Wall Street Journal, but "[t]he notion that they are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."

Senior U.S. officials did not mince words when discussing what they called the "reckless and untrustworthy" conduct of Netanyahu and his advisors during the Gaza operation, the Wall Street Journal reported, and American officials quoted in the report described a recent telephone conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama as "particularly combative."

Israeli officials, on the other hand, told the paper that in light of the backing he received from congress, Netanyahu remains unworried by talk of a crisis in relations with the White House, and is mindful of the fact Obama's tenure will be over in two and a half years.

The officials said Netanyahu, having pushed the U.S. government aside, now seeks to receive security-related assurances in exchange for the signing of a long-term cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip.

"The allegations are unfounded," Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer was quoted as saying by the WSJ, in response to the Wall Street Journal's description of a "fraying of relations" between the two nations' leaders. "Israel deeply appreciates the support we have received during the recent conflict in Gaza from both the Obama administration and the Congress for Israel's right to defend itself and for increased funding of Iron Dome."

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