Special to WorldTribune.com
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has ordered his administration not to approve U.S. weapons deliveries to Israel.
Officials said the White House ordered the State Department and Defense Department to suspend any Israeli request for weapons or other military supplies. They said Obama issued a directive that any Israeli request, regardless of size, would require his approval.
“It is unprecedented that the president approve every item in a military-to-military relationship, but this is exactly what has been decided,” an official said.
Officials said the White House issued the directive amid Israel’s war with the Gaza Strip. They said Obama, who approved aid to Israel’s Iron Dome missile and rocket defense program, was furious that the Defense Department approved what was termed routine Israeli requests for munitions and missiles in July 2014.
“The president felt that his efforts to achieve a ceasefire was being undermined by U.S. weapons deliveries to Israel,” the official said. “Now, nothing moves without his approval, and that means everything will be slowed down.”
Officials said Obama canceled at least two arms shipments approved by the Pentagon for Israel. They did not elaborate, but acknowledged that Israel was to have received a shipment of jet fuel and main battle tank munitions in August. They said the White House also suspended the release of the AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles for the Israel Air Force.
“Given the crisis in Gaza, it is natural that agencies take additional care with deliveries as part of an inter-agency process,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, who acknowledged a policy change, said on Aug. 14. “And it’s not a permanent change in process.”
Ms. Harf said the administration was taking a “second look” at U.S. military exports to Israel. She said the current policy would continue “as the crisis is ongoing.”
“But I would venture to guess that at the end of this we’ll probably not continue, but I just don’t have anything to preview for you on that,” Ms. Harf said.
Israel was said to have been alarmed by Obama’s decision to suspend weapons deliveries to Israel. On Aug. 13, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon telephoned his U.S. counterpart, Chuck Hagel, to discuss the blocking of the Hellfire deal.
“Secretary Hagel reiterated his support for Egypt’s mediation efforts and underscored the importance of achieving a sustainable outcome that ensures Israel’s security and addresses Gaza’s humanitarian crisis,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Aug. 14.
On Aug. 13, the Wall Street Journal quoted senior U.S. officials that relations with Israel plunged to the lowest point in the Obama administration. They said the president held what was termed a “combative phone call” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Aug. 6 regarding the ceasefire.
“Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict — the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years — has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy,” the Wall Street Journal said. “The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy.
They decided to require White House and State Department approval for even routine munitions requests by Israel, officials say.”