The Biden administration is sending munitions to Israel months after it dipped into an Israel-based U.S. military stockpile to aid Ukraine.
President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a call Sunday that military assistance was on the way, with more to follow over the coming days. That assistance will include munitions, according to the Pentagon.
According to the New York Times, the Pentagon in January tapped into its “vast but little-known stockpile of American ammunition in Israel to help meet Ukraine’s dire need for artillery shells in the war with Russia.”
The stockpile was for the Pentagon to use in Middle East conflicts but also for Israel to access in “emergencies.”
Now, the Biden administration is rushing over more supplies to Israel as it embarks on a major military operation against Hamas terrorists that launched attacks across the country, killing more than 900, including at least nine Americans.
The purpose of the stockpile in Israel was for a very scenario that the country saw on Saturday after it was under siege from Hamas militants.
According to the Times, the origin of the stockpile was the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, when the U.S. airlifted weapons to resupply Israeli forces — which it is doing again now. The report said:
After the war, the United States established warehouses in Israel so that it could rely on them if it were again caught in a crisis. A strategic memorandum signed by the two countries in the 1980s paved the way for the “pre-positioning” of Pentagon assets in Israel, according to two former U.S. officials and a former senior Israeli military officer with direct knowledge of the agreement.
…Israel was allowed to withdraw American munitions from the stockpile during its war with Hezbollah in the summer of 2006 and again during operations against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in 2014, according to a Congressional Research Service report released in February 2022.
The Times reported that Israel had been worried that the move could damage its relations with Russia. The report said 300,000 155-millimeter shells were to be shipped to Ukraine. It added that stockpiles in Israel and South Korea accounted for a “sizable” portion of the one million 155-millimeter shells the U.S. has sent or pledged to Ukraine.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had made the request to then-Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz via an “encrypted phone conversation.” Gantz then brought the request to the Israeli cabinet, which deferred to the opinion of the “defense establishment,” which recommended accepting the plan to avoid tension with the United States. Then-Prime Minister Yair Lapid approved the request at the end of the discussion, according to the report.
According to a report in Politico on Sunday, the White House “may be considering” releasing some of the stockpile to Israel. A U.S. official said there is still enough left. The official claimed that military assistance to Israel would not impact its aid to Ukraine, as the countries use “different systems.”
“Israel has Iron Dome, whereas Ukraine has NASAMS, Patriot, Hawks,” the official told the outlet. “It’s a bit of a different category.”