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US nixes Israel meeting after Netanyahu says US withholding weapons

The White House rejects Benjamin Netanyahu's claims that it has withheld weapons and ammunitions over the "past few months."
National security adviser Jake Sullivan (2nd L), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (3rd L) and US President Joe Biden (4th L) listen to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House canceled a strategic dialogue with senior Israeli officials that was scheduled to take place in Washington on Thursday, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published a video in which he accused the Biden administration of halting weapons deliveries to Israel for months. 

The move, reported by Axios late Tuesday, is the latest development in the strained relations between Netanyahu and the Biden administration, which is becoming increasingly frustrated at the Israeli leader’s reluctance to end the war in Gaza.

Thursday’s planned strategic dialogue was set to focus on the Iranian nuclear program, with large delegations on both sides. Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer was expected to head the Israeli delegation.  

Instead of the dialogue, there will be only a meeting between Israel’s national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, and his American counterpart, Jake Sullivan, Haaretz reported, citing an unnamed Israeli senior official.

Meanwhile, Axios quoted an unnamed US official as saying that "this decision (to cancel the dialogue) makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts," referring to Netanyahu’s video. An anonymous White House official later told NBC News that the meeting had not yet been finalized, "so nothing has been cancelled."

In the video published on Tuesday, Netanyahu said, "When Secretary (Antony) Blinken was recently here in Israel, we had a candid conversation. I said I deeply appreciated the support the US has given Israel from the beginning of the war. 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." 

"Secretary Blinken assured me that the administration is working day and night to remove these bottlenecks," Netanyahu said. "I certainly hope that's the case. It should be the case."

US President Joe Biden’s top advisers were enraged by the video, Axios reported.

The United States denied that it has continuously withheld weapons from Israel over the last few months. 

"We genuinely do not know what he is talking about. We just don't," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a news briefing, before adding that only one shipment of heavy bombs had been paused since the war against Hamas began on Oct. 7.

“We continue to have constructive conversations with the Israelis for the release of that particular shipment and don’t have any updates on that. There are no other pauses or holds in place. … Everything else is moving in due process,” she added.

Rep. Ritchie Torres, a New York congressman, wrote on his personal X account that Netanyahu's video emboldened Hamas.

"If you are looking to undermine the bipartisanship of the US-Israel relationship, then release a public video attacking the Biden administration, which, despite hysterical opposition from the far left, has held firm in support of Israel for eight months and counting," Torres wrote. “Disagreements should be had in private. Hamas is emboldened by even the appearance of a ruptured relationship.”

F-15 delays

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the White House has not advanced the sale to Israel of 50 F-15 fighter jets despite congressional support for it. For the purchase to proceed, the State Department needs to formally notify Congress of the $18 billion sale.  

Two top Democrats removed their objections last month, enabling the Biden administration to push the deal forward. But that has not happened, according to the Journal.  Still, the State Department told the paper that there was no policy of slowing down weapons transfers. “We are looking tactically at the timing. It is not a question of whether,” a US official told the paper. “It is a question of when.”