A new Wall Street Journal report reveals that President Barack Obama’s administration blocked a shipment of missiles to Israel in late July and tightened additional weapons shipment procedures to Israel, revealing increasing tensions between the two governments.
The U.S. decision to tighten arms transfers to Israel comes as the UK threatens similar actions. On Tuesday, the British government announced the suspension of 12 arms export licenses to Israel if fighting resumed in Gaza.
The Wednesday night report cites officials in the Obama administration who say Israel had requested a large number of Hellfire missiles directly through military-to-military channels, for which no additional administration approvals are required. An initial batch of the missiles was about to be shipped, according to sources in Israel and the U.S. Congress.
At that point, the administration stepped in and put the transfer on hold. Top White House officials instructed various U.S. military agencies to consult with the U.S. State Department before approving any additional arms requests from Israel.
The decision to clamp down on future transfers was the equivalent of “the United States saying ‘the buck stops here. Wait a second. …It’s not OK anymore,'” said one official.
An Israeli defense official confirmed the reports, saying, “The U.S. delayed a shipment of Hellfire missiles to the Israeli air force” in the face of “national tension” with Israel.
Obama has not been on the same page as Israel in terms of Israel’s operation in Gaza, making various attempts to press Israel into accepting a truce with Hamas, even under terms unpalatable to the Israeli government.
After one instance where America allegedly pressured Israel into a ceasefire that was violated within 90 minutes by a Hamas attack which killed several Israeli soldiers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told the administration “not to ever second guess me again.”
According to U.S. officials cited in The Wall Street Journal report, a Wednesday night phone call between Obama and Netanyahu was “particularly combative.”
A turning point appeared to be Israel’s July 30 IDF strike on terrorists adjacent to a UN school, which the U.S. slammed as “disgraceful.”
In response, the IDF confirmed it targeted Islamic Jihad terrorists in the vicinity of the school and provided video evidence that Hamas had fired rockets from inside schools.
The U.S. administration has since required White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.
Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review, slowing the approval process–and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.