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Biden administration set to greenlight $18 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Israel

Biden administration set to greenlight $18 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Israel

Baku, April 3, AZERTAC

The Biden administration is close to approving the sale of as many as 50 American-made F-15 fighter jets to Israel, in a deal expected to be worth more than $18 billion, according to three people familiar with the matter.

According to CNN, the transaction, which would amount to the largest US foreign military sale to Israel since the country went to war with Hamas on October 7, comes as the administration is also expected to notify Congress soon of a large new sale of precision-guided munitions kits to Israel, the people said.

The new sales of some of the US’ most sophisticated weaponry underscore the extent to which the US continues to support Israel militarily, even as Biden administration officials criticize Israel’s operations in Gaza, which have killed more than 32,000 Palestinians since October, according to the Gaza ministry of health.

The sale is likely to be hotly debated in Congress, particularly by members of the president’s own party. US weapons sales to Israel have come under intense scrutiny in recent months and Democratic lawmakers have called for restricting military aid to Israeli until it allows more humanitarian aid into Gaza and does more to protect civilians there.

Since Hamas’ attack on Israel in October, which killed over 1,200 Israelis, the US has made more than 100 foreign military sales to Israel. Most of those have fallen under the specific dollar amount that requires a notification to Congress, an official familiar with the matter previously told CNN.

But an $18 billion F-15 sale is large enough that it requires congressional notification, and the administration informally notified the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees of the F-15 sale in late January, according to two of the people familiar with the matter.

The informal notification gives lawmakers and congressional staff time to review the details and ask questions before the State Department sends a formal notification to all lawmakers.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. James Risch, has already given his approval on the sale, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. A congressional aide told CNN that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul has also approved the transaction to proceed to formal congressional notification.

But Sen. Ben Cardin, the Democratic chairman of the committee, as well as the Democratic ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs committee, Rep. Greg Meeks, can still hold up the sale if they raise objections.

If there are no objections, the State Department will send a formal notification to all lawmakers, who will then have 30 days to block the sale via a joint resolution of disapproval. Congress has never successfully blocked a proposed arms sale through such a resolution, which has to be passed by both chambers, according to the Congressional Research Service.

There are also growing concerns among Democrats over the Biden administration’s continued practice of sharing intelligence with Israel, which was expanded on President Joe Biden’s orders in the wake of the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Some of that intelligence support has been in the form of so-called raw intelligence that Israel is meant to use to locate hostages, but could also be used to identify Hamas targets, some sources told CNN. Hamas fighters are often embedded in civilian areas, officials have said.

Meanwhile, a growing number of US diplomats are becoming frustrated over the administration’s reluctance to use its leverage over Israel to change their approach to the ongoing war.

“What you hear about the frustrations within the administration over the Israel policy, it is real,” one US diplomat told CNN on condition of anonymity. “We are being asked to act in a way that ignores what we are seeing on the ground.”

The diplomats also told CNN they were frustrated with the administration’s attempts to downplay the US abstention from a UN vote last week on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. What could have been a bold message to Israel was diluted by the US insisting the resolution was non-binding and consistent with existing US policy, these diplomats said.

These disaffected diplomats said they would like to see the US threaten future arms sales to Israel to help curtail the bloody fighting, but the proposed F-15 and precision-guided munitions sales indicate that the administration is not planning to restrict military assistance any time soon.

Unlike the precision guided munitions, the new F-15s would need to be built from scratch. A US official said there are no plans to expedite delivery of the jets to Israel so, if approved, they would not be delivered to Israel for at least five years.

 

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