Biden administration weighing $18 billion in arms transfers to Israel, sources say

By Humeyra Pamuk, Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Biden administration is weighing whether to go ahead with a major $18 billion package of arms transfers to Israel that would involve dozens of F-15 aircraft and munitions, three sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

The sale of 25 F-15s from Boeing to Israel has been under review since the United States received the formal request in January 2023, one of the sources said.

Speeding up the delivery of the aircraft was among the top asks by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who visited Washington last week and held talks with U.S. officials including U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the second source said.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul gave the green light for the sale on Jan. 30, a committee aide said, when the relevant congressional offices responsible for approving major arms transfers were notified.

“Administration-Congressional deliberations on the F-15 case have already occurred,” the second source familiar with the matter said, but added that some of the four offices required to sign off on any arms transfers had yet to do so.

U.S. law requires Congress to be notified of major foreign military sales agreements, and an informal review process allows the Democratic and Republican leaders of foreign affairs committees to vet such agreements before formal notification to Congress.

The package includes a large number of F-15 aircraft, aircraft munitions and a number of support services, training, maintenance, sustainment and many years of contractor support during the lifecycle of the aircraft, which could typically go for up to two decades, according to one of the sources.

A third source said the Biden administration had expressed support to Israel for its F-15 request.

Washington has publicly expressed concern about Israel’s anticipated military offensive in Rafah, the southernmost city of the Gaza Strip where many Palestinians taken shelter after being displaced due to Israel’s nearly six-month-old Gaza assault.

Israel launched an offensive in Gaza after Palestinian Hamas militants rampaged through southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli assault, say health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Washington gives $3.8 billion in annual military assistance to its longtime ally Israel, and the administration has so far resisted calls to condition any arms transfers even though senior U.S. officials have criticized Israel over the high civilian death toll.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gallant discussed Israel’s weapons needs during a visit to Washington last week. He told reporters he had stressed with senior U.S. officials the importance of maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region, including its air capabilities.

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Patricia Zengerle and Matt Spetalnick; Additional reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Don Durfee and Howard Goller)


Close Bitnami banner