Hold up of US missile shipment to Israel reportedly resolved

TV report quotes Israeli official saying blocked transfer of Hellfires was ‘just bureaucratic’, but no word on when delivery expected

Illustrative photo of Hellfire missiles (photo credit: CC BY-Wikipedia)
Illustrative photo of Hellfire missiles (photo credit: CC BY-Wikipedia)

A hold up in the US supply of Hellfire missiles to Israel has been resolved and the incident “is behind us,” Israel’s Channel 10 news quoted a senior Israeli official as saying on Thursday night. The official said Israel had been assured that the suspension of the sale “was just bureaucracy.”

The unconfirmed report did not specify when the weapons would be delivered.

The news came a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed American support for Israel during the ongoing war against Hamas, noting that he spoke almost daily with Secretary of State John Kerry, and had held four calls with President Barack Obama since the conflict erupted 45 days ago.

A senior Israeli official last Thursday had confirmed to Israeli media that the US suspended a planned shipment of Hellfire precision missiles.

The decision to hold off on the transfer was most likely on grounds of increased diplomatic tension, the official said, corroborating a Wall Street Journal report that day on the affair.

The Journal report claimed that US-Israeli tensions were at a record high, with Obama and Netanyahu said to have held a “particularly combative phone call” the previous day.

Later last Thursday, the State Department said that weapons shipments to Israel would be undergoing additional review due to the war in Gaza, but denied that the Pentagon had engaged in weapons transfers to Israel behind the back of the White House and State Department.

Spokeswoman Marie Harf said she was not aware that anyone had been “caught off-guard” by such transfers.

Harf described an inter-agency process, including the Pentagon, White House and State Department, to review such transfers, and said that she “would disagree” with the report in the Journal to the effect that the State Department and White House were “surprised” that the Pentagon continued to provide weapons to Israel.

The State Department spokesperson worked to downplay the scale and implications of the additional review. “As I have said many times, the US has an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security,” Harf asserted, citing Obama’s recent approval of an additional funding package for the Iron Dome missile defense project.

“There has been no change in policy” regarding Israel’s security assistance, Harf insisted. She added, however, that given the situation, it is natural that there would be “additional care” taken in the review process. She emphasized that “additional steps” were not tantamount to an official “review” of US military aid for Israel.

“It’s not an unusual step,” Harf said. “The general principle is that when there is an ongoing crisis or conflict in which we are providing weapons, we would take an additional look at it,” she said.

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