White House rejects Netanyahu criticism for withholding weapons from Israel

The United States says it has no idea what the Israeli prime minister is talking about.

The Biden administration on Tuesday rejected Benjamin Netanyahu‘s accusation that Washington had been “withholding weapons and ammunitions” from its close ally over the “past few months.” The Israeli leader implied that this was hampering his military’s ongoing offensive in Gaza, now focused on the southern city of Rafah.

“We genuinely do not know what he is talking about. We just don’t,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said as she maintained that only one shipment of heavy bombs had been paused since the war began, while billions of dollars of arms have continued to flow into Israel.

On Wednesday, the United Nations human rights office said that the laws of war were likely being “consistently violated” in the Israeli military’s ongoing assault on the Palestinian enclave, citing the use of heavy bombs.

That new assessment came as some focus was turning north to Israel’s border with Lebanon, where both Israel and the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah have intensified their exchanges of fire and rhetoric while the U.S. has sought to avoid an all-out war.

Netanyahu issued his criticism in a video statement posted on X, saying he had discussed the issue of withheld weapons with Antony Blinken during the secretary of state’s recent visit to Israel.

“I said I deeply appreciated the support the U.S. has given Israel from the beginning of the war,” Netanyahu says in the video, speaking directly to the camera in English. “But I also said something else. I said it’s inconceivable that, in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”

Netanyahu didn’t expand on exactly what weapons were being withheld, but he said Blinken had assured him the U.S. was working to “remove these bottlenecks.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv on June 18, 2024.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.Shaul Golan / AFP – Getty Images

In a news briefing Tuesday, Blinken said he would not discuss what was said during diplomatic conversations with Netanyahu. But he maintained that there had been “no change” in the White House’s stance.

“Our posture is, again, to make sure that Israel has what it needs to defend itself across these many threats,” he said, as two top Democrats in Congress allowed the U.S. sale of $15 billion of F-15s to Israel to move ahead following a delay, according to The Associated Press.

Blinken noted there had been “one case,” which NBC News reported on in May, in which the U.S. halted a large shipment of offensive weapons to Israel in a sign of its growing concern over Israel’s plans to launch a military offensive in Rafah.

At the time, President Joe Biden threatened that the U.S. would halt shipments of certain arms if Israel moved forward with a full-scale assault in Rafah, the city in southern Gaza once considered a safe zone.

Washington has maintained that Israel has not crossed its red lines, despite the Israeli military launching an intensifying campaign in Rafah with deadly consequences.

Blinken said that the administration continued to review the “one shipment” that was withheld, but he said “everything else is moving as it normally would.”

He stressed that those processes can take time.

Jean-Pierre, in a news briefing, also said that the shipment of heavy bombs was the only one being delayed, and added that the U.S. was having “constructive discussions” with Israel about the transfer.

Netanyahu’s office declined to comment.

The latest clash between the two allies came as Netanyahu faced domestic pressure over the fate of the war.

Israel has warned it may soon launch a fresh offensive along its northern border with Lebanon amid mounting hostilities with Hezbollah.

An Israeli army tank rolls to take position in an area along Israel's southern border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip on June 18, 2024.
An Israeli army tank rolls to take position in an area along Israel’s southern border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday.Jack Guez / AFP – Getty Images

The U.S. and France have been working on a negotiated settlement and Netanyahu met with U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein earlier this week.

But the Israeli military said Tuesday that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon” had been “approved and validated.”

Hezbollah, meanwhile, published footage that it said was captured by surveillance aircraft of parts of Israel, including the city of Haifa’s sea and air ports, with Haifa just under 20 miles from the Lebanon border.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz responded in a post on X, saying that Israel was “getting very close to the moment of decision to change the rules of the game with Hezbollah and Lebanon.”

“In a full-scale war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be severely hit,” he said.

It comes as Israeli forces continue their offensive across Gaza, where more than 37,000 people have been killed, according to local health authorities. Israel launched its assault on the enclave following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, in which some 1,200 people were killed and around 250 others taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.

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