Netanyahu says he pressed Blinken on US withholding weapons to Israel

Netanyahu says he pressed Blinken on US withholding weapons to Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he pressed U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the withholding of U.S. weapons when they met last week in Tel Aviv.

“It’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel,” Netanyahu said in a video released by the prime minister’s office.

In response, Blinken assured Netanyahu in a “candid conversation” that the administration was working “day and night” to cancel restrictions applied to the weapons transfers, according to the Israeli prime minister.

Just this week, lawmakers on the Senate and House Foreign Affairs committees approved the $18 billion transfer of U.S. weapons to Israel following a months-long hold after top Democrats signed off.

“We genuinely do not know what he is talking about,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Parine said in reference to Netanyahu’s statement at a press conference Tuesday.

The package will advance to the rest of Congress, where members could choose to block the transfer by adopting a joint resolution. However, Congress has never successfully blocked the transfer of a proposed arms sale from the White House through that process.

The package reportedly includes $700 million for tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar rounds, according to The Associated Press.

During a D.C. press conference Tuesday, Blinken declined to confirm that he made assurances to Netanyahu but said the administration was still reviewing components of a shipment.

“We, as you know, are continuing to review one shipment that President 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.

“There are no other holds or pauses in place,” Jean-Pierre reaffirmed. “Everything else is moving in due process.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told The Washington Post that he understood that the arms would not be delivered for years, with estimates reporting they would not be delivered to Israel for five years.

President Biden said in May that the administration would pause shipments of U.S. munitions to Israel if they launched a major offensive on the city of Rafah, which is densely populated with Gazan refugees who have fled the north.

Progress with the transfer comes amid the administration’s public opposition to Israel’s ongoing attack on the south of the Gaza Strip.

“Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster,” Netanyahu concluded.

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