April 17, 2024

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Is Washington running out of patience, is America tightening its thumb on Israel?

Is Washington running out of patience, is America tightening its thumb on Israel?

Posters in Tel Aviv

The war in Gaza and a possible attack on Rafah have further increased tensions between Israel and its close ally, the United States. US President Joe Biden has invited Israeli officials to Washington to discuss plans to attack Rafah. The Americans have an important means of political pressure at their disposal: the supply of arms to Israel.

Biden has repeatedly said he fears a massacre in Rafah, home to nearly 1.5 million Palestinian refugees. The city in the south of the Gaza Strip is, according to Israel, the last major stronghold of Hamas.

Biden wants Israel to come up with a “credible” plan that guarantees the safety of innocent civilians. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Biden administration of denying Israel its right to self-defense.

Three billion dollars

As with US military support, US involvement in the country is very long-standing. “Indispensable support for Israel,” says Seeman Wessmann, a researcher on the international arms trade at the Swedish think tank SIPRI. “The U.S. supplies Israel with all the fighter jets and attack helicopters it has. It doesn't manufacture them, the U.S. alone supplies them. In addition, the weapons that are under these planes are also mostly from the U.S.”

For the United States, Israel is an important ally and strategic military partner in the Middle East. This is also evident from the US military support of more than three billion dollars a year. “That's the only money Israel has to buy weapons in America,” says Wessman.

According to Weissman, the data shows that large quantities of weapons were also ordered in 2023. These include 25 F-35 and 25 F-15 fighter jets, guided missiles, all-terrain vehicles, anti-tank missiles and Apache attack helicopters. Weissman: “Israel simply cannot do without America's weapons and military and financial support.”

American Bombs

But there are Rumors Weissman says that fewer weapons have been issued recently. “The Americans are keeping their mouths shut, but it's clear that the Biden administration doesn't like the approach in Gaza, where there have been a lot of civilian casualties. It's not appropriate for modern warfare and domestic opinion has problems with that.”

Josh Paul is responsible for arms deliveries to allies like Israel on behalf of the US State Department. Until he resigned shortly after the conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted. “Because US-supplied weapons should not be used to kill thousands of civilians. When I tried to raise these concerns, there was no interest in that conversation, no room for debate. At least now I'm not participating. To the death of thousands of Palestinian civilians.”

Paul says most of the bombs dropped on Gaza were American bombs. “We have a tremendous amount of guilt in this, but also a tremendous amount of influence.” Although he doesn't think his country will stop supplying weapons. “Certainly not while this conflict is going on. It's been a long time since the US used its influence to put pressure on Israel.”

International order

Paul believes his country should no longer be on the sidelines. According to him, there is no military solution to the conflict. “In the long run, this has huge implications for the United States. For the rules-based international order,” he says. “It harms America's ability to mobilize allies and partners around the world. Partners in causes we believe in, like the security of Ukraine and our relationships in the Middle East.”

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Biden referred to the attack on Rafa A television interview Another 'red line' last weekend. According to Paul, isn't that a hint that the attack will have consequences for US arms supply? “The moment the attack on Rafa starts, it's too late to apply that pressure.”