Between Wars, U.S. Toughening Up on Israel

The Bush administration and State Department are blocking arms and technology transfers to Israel, Middle East Newsline reports.

Hillel Fendel, | updated: 09:36

Quoting "Israeli and U.S. sources," MENL reports that the State Department has blocked the transfer of weapons and technology to Israel over the past three months, reflecting deteriorating relations between the two countries since the war in Lebanon in August of this year.

The unofficial suspension of U.S. arms deliveries, beginning in late September, halted the airlift of air-to-ground and other munitions that had been ongoing since the war - despite Israel's continuing need for them. Israel says it needs the equipment in order to replenish munitions and other stocks in preparation for a larger war that might include Syria in mid-2007.

"Nobody will say openly that there is a problem," a government source said. "But there is a serious problem that reflects the marginalization of Israel in U.S. strategy... The administration has not rejected any Israeli request. Instead, the State Department and Defense Department have said that all requests must be examined."

Military cooperation between the two countries has also been hampered in other areas. The State Department recently prevented Northrop Grumman from providing Israel with details of its Skyguard laser weapon, which the company wanted to sell Israel. In turn, Israel suspended negotiations to procure the system, which is designed to intercept short-range rockets and missiles.

Two reasons have been given for the deterioration in relations. One is the perceived Israeli loss, or at least non-victory, in the war with Hizbullah, which has undermined
U.S. confidence in Israel's military and government. In addition, the U.S. may be trying to assuage Saudi Arabia, whose help the U.S. seeks in Iraq. "There's nothing like stopping the weapons flow to Israel to show the Saudis that the United States means business," a diplomatic source told MENL.