Netanyahu again claims US withholding weapons days after Washington denial

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said there has been a “dramatic drop” in US weapons deliveries for Israel’s war effort in Gaza, doubling down on a claim Washington has denied and underscoring the growing strains between the two allies.

Mr Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday that the drop occurred four months ago, without specifying which weapons, saying only that “certain items arrived sporadically but the munitions at large remained behind”.

The spat highlights how high tensions have surged between Israel and Washington over the war in Gaza, particularly surrounding the Israeli military’s conduct in the beleaguered territory and the harm to civilian life there.

US President Joe Biden has delayed delivering certain heavy bombs since May over those concerns, but his administration fought back last week against Mr Netanyahu’s charges that other shipments had also been affected.

People taking part in a protest against the Israeli government
Regular protests have been held in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and calling for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Hamas (Leo Correa/AP)

“In light of what I have heard over the past day, I hope and believe that this matter will be solved soon,” he said, without elaborating.

Mr Netanyahu’s video last week sparked an uproar among critics in Israel and was met with denial and confusion from White House officials.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the US was “perplexed” by Mr Netanyahu’s claims, while press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We generally do not know what he’s talking about.”

His remarks came hours after Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant travelled to Washington for meetings with senior officials. A statement from Mr Gallant’s office said he would discuss “maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge in the region”, but made no mention of the weapons issue.

Palestinians gather round hole created by Israeli bomb
Palestinians gather at the edge of a crater created by an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis, southern Gaza (Jehad Alshrafi/AP)

Mr Biden has felt pressure from progressive Democrats to take a tougher line against Israel, and he has sharpened his warnings to Mr Netanyahu over military tactics in the Gaza Strip.

But after threatening to impose a more sweeping ban on arms transfers over an assault on Rafah, the administration has avoided any suggestion that Israel’s expanding push into the southern Gaza city has crossed a red line.

During an election year, Mr Biden is also facing critics on the right who say he has moderated his support for an essential ally in the Middle East.

For Mr Netanyahu, the growing daylight with the US also poses political risks and opportunities.

His critics see the public spats as the result of a leader prepared to wreck important alliances and tarnish Israel’s image in the world for political gain.

But the rift grants the long-serving leader a chance to show his base that he is not beholden to the US and that he is putting Israel’s interests first.

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