PM: Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster

Netanyahu protests ‘inconceivable’ arms halt; US: Don’t know what he’s talking about

In English-language video, PM says Blinken has assured him restrictions will end; secretary of state demurs: One shipment still under review, everything else is moving normally

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 1, 2024. (Haim Zach/GPO)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, May 1, 2024. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Following reports that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington would remove all restrictions on weapons transfers to Israel in the coming days, the prime minister went on the record Tuesday to assert that the top American diplomat had given him assurances to that effect.

“When Secretary Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu said in an English-language video.

“But I also said something else, I said it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel,” he added. “Israel, America’s closest ally, fighting for its life, fighting against Iran and our other common enemies.”

“Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks,” Netanyahu continued. “I certainly hope that’s the case. It should be the case.”

Blinken was asked to confirm Netanyahu’s account of their meeting during a press conference in Washington later Tuesday. The top US diplomat indicated that the Israeli premier was exaggerating the step taken by the US, insisting that only one shipment has been withheld.

“We are continuing to review one shipment that President [Joe] Biden has talked about with regard to 2000-pound bombs because of our concerns about their use in a densely populated area like Rafah. That remains under review,” Blinken said.

“But everything else is moving as it normally would move… with the perspective of making sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself against this multiplicity of challenges [it faces],” he added.

Pressed again to say whether Netanyahu was telling the truth, Blinken responded, “I’m not going to talk about what we said in diplomatic conversations.”

The White House went further in dismissing Netanyahu’s claim when asked about it during a press conference later Tuesday.

“We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about. We just don’t,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

“There was one particular shipment of munitions that was paused, and you’ve heard us talk about that many times. We continue to have constructive conversations with the Israelis for the release of that particular shipment and don’t have any updates on that. There are no other pauses or holds in place… Everything else is moving in due process,” she said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Netanyahu in his earlier statement also stressed that an increased flow of US weapons will help finish the war more rapidly — something Biden is eager to achieve, especially with a tough election contest underway.

“During World War II, [UK leader Winston] Churchill told the United States, ‘Give us the tools, we’ll do the job,’” said Netanyahu. “And I say, give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster.”

The unsourced reports — published Monday in Hebrew by Channel 12 and in German by the Bild daily — said that during his meeting with Blinken last week in Jerusalem, Netanyahu had demanded that the frequency of US arms shipments return to the level immediately after October 7.

In contrast to the considerable military aid that the US provided at the start of the war, the situation has reversed of late, Netanyahu reportedly complained, and the US has in practice halted its military support to its ally in the war against Hamas.

This picture taken from the central Gaza Strip town of al-Zawaida shows smoke billowing following an Israeli strike south of Gaza City, on June 11, 2024. (Eyad BABA / AFP)

Netanyahu reportedly argued that the slowing of aid plays into the hands of Iran and its proxies in the region, including Hamas and Hezbollah, extends the war and increases the risk of it broadening to new fronts.

After Blinken’s pledge, Netanyahu told Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi to make sure, during their upcoming meetings with American officials in Washington this week, that the arms transfers have been fully restored.

Last month, after Biden threatened that some additional transfers would be frozen if Israel launched its planned major offensive in southern Gaza’s Rafah, Netanyahu vowed that if Israel “has to stand alone, we will stand alone.”

At the time, the White House delayed a shipment of 2,000- and 500-pound bombs over concerns that the IDF could use them in densely populated Rafah, as it had in other parts of Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (second right) visits Kiryat Shmona on the border with Lebanon, June 5, 2024. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

But weeks later, in a highly anticipated report to Congress, the Biden administration said it found “credible and reliable” Israeli assurances that it would use US weapons in accordance with international humanitarian law, allowing for the further transfer of American arms amid Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that two key Democrats have agreed to support a major arms sale to Israel that includes 50 F-15 fighter jets.

Rep. Gregory Meeks and Sen. Ben Cardin have signed off on the deal under heavy pressure from the Biden administration after the two lawmakers had for months held up the sale, the report said.

“Any issues or concerns Chair Cardin had were addressed through our ongoing consultations with the administration, and that’s why he felt it appropriate to allow this case to move forward,” Eric Harris, communications director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the Post in a statement.

Meeks told the paper that he had been in close contact with the White House and had urged them to pressure Israel over humanitarian efforts and civilian casualties. He said the F-15s would not be delivered until “years from now.”

US Rep. Gregory Meeks, Democrat-New York speaks during a news conference outside the USPS Jamaica station, in the Queens borough of New York, August 18, 2020. (John Minchillo/AP)

The US has long been by far the largest arms supplier to its closest Middle East ally, followed by Germany — whose strong support for Israel reflects in part atonement for the Nazi Holocaust — and Italy.

Some countries, such as Italy, Canada and the Netherlands, have halted arms shipments to Israel this year over concerns they could be used in ways violating international humanitarian law — causing civilian casualties and destruction of residential areas — in Gaza.

Israel says it does not target civilians and that the operation is focused on eliminating Hamas. It has provided extensive evidence that Hamas embeds itself among the civilian population and uses civilian infrastructure to store its weapons.

While Germany approved arms exports to Israel worth 326 million euros ($350 million) last year, 10 times more than in 2022, the volume of approvals fell to around 10 million euros in the first quarter of this year.

The war in Gaza erupted with Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 251 hostages, mostly civilians.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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