There are more apparent rifts between Israel and the U.S. administration, this time over an interruption of Hellfire missiles at the request of the White House and State Department.
Normal channels apparently were followed, but the administration reportedly has its nose out of joint because the U.S. has been sidelined as Israel and Egypt work together, and Israeli press leaks painted the Obama administration as hopelessly naive and incompetent.
The alleged confrontation has become a hot political issue in Israel, where tension with the U.S. always works against a politician.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
White House and State Department officials who were leading U.S. efforts to rein in Israel’s military campaign in the Gaza Strip were caught off guard last month when they learned that the Israeli military had been quietly securing supplies of ammunition from the Pentagon without their approval.
Since then the Obama administration has tightened its control on arms transfers to Israel. But Israeli and U.S. officials say that the adroit bureaucratic maneuvering made it plain how little influence the White House and State Department have with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu —and that both sides know it….
Then the officials learned that, in addition to asking for tank shells and other munitions, Israel had submitted a request through military-to-military channels for a large number of Hellfire missiles, according to Israeli and American officials.
The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, or DSCA, was about to release an initial batch of the Hellfires, according to Israeli and congressional officials. It was immediately put on hold by the Pentagon, and top officials at the White House instructed the DSCA, the U.S. military’s European Command and other agencies to consult with policy makers at the White House and the State Department before approving any additional requests.
A senior Obama administration official said the weapons transfers shouldn’t have been a routine “check-the-box approval” process, given the context. The official said the decision to scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels amounted to “the United States saying ‘The buck stops here. Wait a second…It’s not OK anymore.’ “
This paragraph, though, highlights that Bibi may be overplaying his cards:
Now, as Egyptian officials shuttle between representatives of Israel and Hamas seeking a long-term deal to end the fighting, U.S. officials are bystanders instead of in their historic role as mediators. The White House finds itself largely on the outside looking in.
U.S. officials said Mr. Obama had a particularly combative phone call on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, who they say has pushed the administration aside but wants it to provide Israel with security assurances in exchange for signing onto a long-term deal….
While Israeli officials have privately told their U.S. counterparts the poor state of relations isn’t in Israel’s interest long term, they also said they believed Mr. Netanyahu wasn’t too worried about the tensions. The reason is that he can rely on the firmness of Israeli support in Congress, even if he doesn’t have the White House’s full approval for his policies. The prime minister thinks he can simply wait out the current administration, they say.
Bibi is miscalculating. The overwhelming support of the American people for Israel, reflected in Congress, can only go so far.
Congress has no control over military deliveries. Or U.N. votes.
As I have said many times, there is only one person in the world who can destroy Israel, and it’s the President of the United States, who can do so by not acting, by doing nothing, and by not resupplying Israel in time of need.
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