White House rejects Netanyahu claim U.S. is 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.

The White House denied reports it had canceled a high-level meeting with Israeli officials on Iran after being enraged by Netanyahu’s accusation. A White House official told NBC News the details of the meeting had not yet been finalized, “so nothing has been cancelled.”

U.S. officials said they did not want to “reward” Israel with the meeting and described it as “not locked” in a final schedule and “postponed.” The officials said it is still expected to happen, however.

The White House official said meetings with Israeli officials were being held throughout the week “on a range of topics.”

“As we said in the briefing yesterday, we have no idea what the prime minister is talking about, but that’s not a reason for rescheduling a meeting,” the official said.

Also Wednesday, the United Nations human rights office said that the laws of war were likely being “consistently violated” in the Israeli military’s 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. worked 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 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 in May, in which the U.S. halted a large shipment of offensive weapons over Israel’s plans to launch a military offensive in Rafah.

President Joe Biden threatened that the U.S. would halt other shipments of certain arms if Israel moved forward with a full-scale assault in Rafah, but Washington has maintained that Israel has not crossed its red lines despite an intensifying campaign in the city in southern Gaza that was once considered a safe zone.

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

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.

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 latest clash between the two allies came as Netanyahu faced growing 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.

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.

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.

Hostilities continued on Wednesday, with the IDF saying that approximately 15 projectiles had been fired from Lebanon toward the area of Kiryat Shmona in Israel’s north, with no injuries reported.

It said Israeli fighter jets also struck a Hezbollah military structure in the area of Tyre, on the Mediterranean coast of southern Lebanon, as well as “terrorist infrastructure” in nearby Khiam.

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