US hasn’t withheld weapons for Israel, but it’s done fast-tracking them — official

Emergency protocol used to cut through bureaucratic procedures in early months of war no longer in place, as intensity of IDF fighting drops and US fears of regional war rise

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Illustrative: Israeli soldiers fire mortar shells towards targets in the Gaza Strip near the border with the Gaza Strip on February 8, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: Israeli soldiers fire mortar shells towards targets in the Gaza Strip near the border with the Gaza Strip on February 8, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

The Biden administration in recent months removed emergency procedures that were in place to fast-track weapons to Israel toward the beginning of the war, an American official familiar with the matter told The Times of Israel on Sunday.

The revelation helps explain the claim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began making last week that the United States has been withholding weapons shipments to Israel. The US has denied the assertion, explaining that it has only withheld one shipment of heavy bombs it was concerned Israel would use in the densely populated southern Gaza city of Rafah.

All other shipments have continued at a normal pace, the White House explained.

The US official told The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity that a “normal pace” does not mean the fast-tracked rate that the US allowed during the early months of the war. In recent months, the US resumed its normal procedures for weapons transfers, including various Congressional authorizations.

The US official added that the move has coincided with a significant slowdown in the IDF’s operations in Gaza along with concern in Washington about a potential Israeli preemptive offensive against Hezbollah in Lebanon that could lead to a regional war.

Channel 12 reported Sunday that during the first part of the war, some 240 weapons shipments were delivered to Israel. That number has dropped to roughly 120 shipments in recent months, the network said, without citing any sources or providing specific dates for the two timeframes.

File: US President Joe Biden is greeted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport, on October 18, 2023, in Tel Aviv. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A second official — an Israeli one — insisted that the return to the pre-war pace of US weapons shipments has not impacted the IDF’s operational capacity in Gaza or Lebanon.

Accordingly, Netanyahu’s decision to publicly attack the US has perplexed and frustrated the Biden administration, the US official said.

The US official speculated that Netanyahu either feels he might benefit politically at home by provoking a spat with Washington or that he is concerned Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will manage to convince the US to resume faster-paced weapons transfers during his meetings at the White House this week and that the premier will not be credited for resolving the issue.

“For many weeks we appealed to our American friends to speed up the shipments. We did it time and time again. We did this at the senior echelons, and at all levels, and I want to emphasize — we did it in private chambers. We got all kinds of explanations, but we didn’t get one thing: The basic situation didn’t change,” Netanyahu claimed during a Sunday cabinet meeting.

“Certain items trickled in, but the bulk of armaments were left behind,” he added.

Responding to the premier’s latest claim, the White House sufficed with saying that it looks forward to hosting Gallant later this week.

“We have made our position clear on this repeatedly, and we aren’t going to keep responding to the Prime Minister’s political statements. We look forward to constructive consultations with Defense Minister Gallant in Washington this week,” said a White House official.

Netanyahu has yet to specify which weapons shipments the US has allegedly withheld.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant makes a statement before flying to Washington, June 23, 2024 (Defense Ministry)

The White House expressed deep frustration with Netanyahu’s criticism last week.

“It was perplexing to say the least, certainly disappointing, especially given that no other country is doing more to help Israel defend itself against the threat by Hamas,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters last week.

“The idea that we had somehow stopped helping Israel with their self-defense needs is absolutely not accurate,” he said, describing the claim as “vexing and disappointing to us as much as it was incorrect.”

Gallant is slated to meet with top US officials this week. He landed in Washington earlier Sunday.

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