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White House perplexed by Netanyahu claims that U.S. is withholding weapons

White House disputes Netanyahu on weapons
White House disputes Netanyahu's claim that the U.S. is withholding weapons from Israel 03:43

The White House, State Department, and Pentagon say they do not know what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was talking about when he said this week that Secretary of State Antony Blinken was working to remove "bottlenecks" holding up weapons shipments to Israel. But one U.S. official offered an explanation for the Israeli leader's accusation.

Netanyahu, in a video released Tuesday, said he told Blinken it's inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition from Israel.

The U.S. has been reviewing one shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs since May. As Israel was preparing for a major offensive in Rafah, the Biden administration paused the shipment because, as President Biden put it in an interview last month, "Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs.   

"I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah," Mr. Biden said. However, the administration said the U.S. would continue to support the Iron Dome, the system that protects Israel from rocket fire, and ensure Israel is able to "respond to attacks" originating in the Middle East. The Pentagon says the U.S. has continued to send weapons to Israel in the weeks since. 

According to the U.S. official, Netanyahu's remarks in the video are apparently based on IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi's belief that the U.S. is slow-rolling Israel on smaller-ticket items like aircraft spare parts. However, the official insists there's been no such delay, except for the shipment of 2,000-pound bombs, which were about to leave an East Coast weapons depot by ship when the delivery was halted in early May. They were about to leave an East coast weapons depot by ship when the delivery was halted. Israel doesn't need them for Gaza, but it would if the conflict in Lebanon escalates further.

However, the official also said, "The Israelis haven't come close to achieving their objective of destroying Hamas" in the war that began with Hamas' Oct. 7 massacre in southern Israel of over a thousand Israelis. Hundreds of fighters and miles of unexplored tunnels remain, and Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is still at large, according to this official. Since Israel has no "day after" plan, the current strategy is "a recipe for continuous war," the official said.

Netanyahu's claim about U.S. weapons shipment delays comes as fighting has escalated between Israel and Hezbollah on Israel's border with Lebanon. Israel and the Iran-backed group have been exchanging fire since October, but the attacks from both sides have increased in recent weeks and are threatening to open up a wider regional war that the Biden administration has been trying for months to avoid. This official believes that an Israeli decision on whether to go into Lebanon will come at the end of July. 

John Kirby, the White House national security communications adviser, told reporters Thursday the administration didn't know about Netanyahu's video in advance and said it was "perplexing" and "disappointing." 

"There's no other country that's done more, or will continue to do more than the United States to help Israel defend itself," Kirby said. 

In a statement released by his office Thursday, Netanyahu said, "I am ready to suffer personal attacks provided that Israel receives from the U.S. the ammunition it needs in the war for its existence."

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