'Most pro-Israel administration ever' blocks missile shipment to Israelfuture requests be approved by the administration and not just by the military.
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.Well, there was another five-day cease fire, but Hamas has already breached it.
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.
The munitions surprise and previously unreported U.S. response added to a string of slights and arguments that have bubbled behind the scenes during the Gaza conflict, according to events related by senior American, Palestinian and Israeli officials involved.
In addition, current and former American officials say, U.S.-Israel ties have been hurt by leaks that they believe were meant to undercut the administration's standing by mischaracterizing its position and delay a cease-fire. The battles have driven U.S.-Israeli relations to the lowest point since President Barack Obama took office.
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.
As a 72-hour pause in the fighting expired at midnight Wednesday, a senior Hamas official said negotiators agreed to another cease-fire, this one of five days. There was no immediate confirmation from Israel or Egypt.
Hamas already breached the last 72-hour ceasefire three hours ahead of its conclusion Wednesday at midnight; on Thursday morning it proved that it does not intend to honor the newly achieved five-day ceasefire either.
Rocket warning sirens were sounded around 10 a.m. on Thursday in the Eshkol Regional Council and Hof Ashkelon region.
Shortly afterwards reports came in that a rocket fell in open ground in the Hof Ashkelon region, apparently causing no injuries or damage.
The attack comes after Hamas fired at least one rocket at the Hof Ashkelon region on Wednesday night around 9 p.m., where it hit open ground.
The terrorist organization then continued firing into the night even after the ceasefire extension was announced, with the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepting one rocket over the city of Netivot. Two other rockets exploded in the Sdot Negev region.Is anyone really surprised that Israel doesn't trust Obama? This is from the first link again.
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.Yeah, 'attacking' Hamas after thousands of rockets is 'reckless and untrustworthy.' I would say that the one who is 'reckless and untrustworthy' is Obama. Is he behaving like an ally?
Israeli officials, in turn, describe the Obama administration as weak and naive, and are doing as much as they can to bypass the White House in favor of allies in Congress and elsewhere in the administration.
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.
Of course, the official Israeli response (as opposed to the 'privately' one) is a lot tamer.
"The allegations are unfounded," said Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. "Israel deeply appreciates the support we have received during the recent conflict in Gaza from both the Obama administration and the Congress for Israel's right to defend itself and for increased funding of Iron Dome."Blah, blah, blah. Obama is clearly ticked off. It's hard to run a war from a golf course.
A senior Obama administration official said the White House didn't intend to get into a "tit for tat" with the Israelis when the war broke out in Gaza. "We have many, many friends around the world. The United States is their strongest friend," the official said. "The notion that they are playing the United States, or that they're manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world."And for the record, Israel did nothing wrong! It's Obama who's changing the rules in the middle of the game.
American officials say they believe they have been able to exert at least some influence over Mr. Netanyahu during the Gaza conflict. But they admit their influence has been weakened as he has used his sway in Washington, from the Pentagon and Congress to lobby groups, to defuse U.S. diplomatic pressure on his government over the past month.
On July 20, Israel's defense ministry asked the U.S. military for a range of munitions, including 120-mm mortar shells and 40-mm illuminating rounds, which were already kept stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.We have to become more reliant on our defense and weapons capabilities and less on the United States, at least so long as this administration is in power. 'Most pro-Israel administration evah'? You got to be kidding.
The request was approved through military channels three days later but not made public. Under the terms of the deal, the Israelis used U.S. financing to pay for $3 million in tank rounds. No presidential approval or signoff by the secretary of state was required or sought, according to officials.
A U.S. defense official said the standard review process was properly followed.
"There was no intent to blindside anyone. The process for this transfer was followed precisely along the lines that it should have," another U.S. defense official said.
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.' "
White House and State Department officials were worried about public reaction.
The Palestinians, in particular, were angry, according to U.S. diplomats.
"The U.S. is a partner in this crime," Jibril Rajoub, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Western-backed Fatah party, said of the decision to provide arms to Israel during the conflict.
Even as tensions with the White House and the State Department were spilling over, Israeli officials worked to expedite the Iron Dome money on Capitol Hill.
Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona said Israeli officials told lawmakers the money was urgently needed because they were running out of interceptors and couldn't hold out for a month or more.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said Congress's goal in approving the money quickly on Aug. 1 was to send a message to the administration to stop calling Israel out about civilian casualties.
A senior Republican congressional aide said Israeli officials told senators they wanted the money sooner rather than later. He said Israel's main purpose in accelerating the vote in Congress to before legislators' August recess was to provide an overwhelming "show of support" for the military operation.
The last straw for many U.S. diplomats came on Aug. 2 when they say Israeli officials leaked to the media that Mr. Netanyahu had told the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, that the Obama administration was "not to ever second-guess me again" about how to deal with Hamas.
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.
Instead of being handled as a military-to-military matter, each case is now subject to review—slowing the approval process and signaling to Israel that military assistance once taken for granted is now under closer scrutiny.
A senior U.S. official said the U.S. and Israel clashed mainly because the U.S. wanted a cease-fire before Mr. Netanyahu was ready to accept one. "Now we both want one," one of the officials said.
A top Israeli official said the rift runs deeper than that. "We've been there before with a lot of tension with us and Washington. What we have now, on top of that, is mistrust and a collision of different perspectives on the Middle East," the official said. "It's become very personal."
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Dan Shapiro, Egypt, Gaza, Hamas, Hellfire missiles, John Kerry, Michael Oren, Operation Protective Edge, Qatar, Ron Dermer, Turkey, weapons acquisition