President Joe Biden and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, on October 18, 2023.

The US will send more than $1 billion in additional arms to Israel.It comes after Biden withheld a shipment of bombs to Israel last week. Experts say the deal sends mixed messages and undermines Biden’s influence. 

The US plans to send more than $1 billion in arms and ammunition to Israel despite growing tensions between President Joe Biden and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Officials said the weapons package will consist of around $700 million in tank ammunition, $500 million worth of military vehicles, and $60 million in mortar rounds, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Getting the weapons to Israel could be a lengthy process. As CNN noted, the sale needs to be officially notified to Congress and receive congressional approval.

It comes days after Biden withheld a shipment of bombs to Israel amid rising concerns that the country was gearing up for a major military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Biden later warned he would withhold additional weaponry if Israel went ahead with a widespread ground assault on the city.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on February 8, 2024, in Washington, DC.

Biden’s decision to pursue the deal could be viewed as an attempt to heal his rift with Netanyahu — and to halt accusations that the US is emboldening Iran.

But it could backfire. Seth Binder, an expert on US weapons sales with the Middle East Democracy Center, told the Journal that Biden’s apparent U-turn weakens his influence over Netanyahu.

“This is just another example of them muddying their message and undermining any real strength behind the hold,” he said.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen told The Washington Post that the deal “undercuts the president’s earlier decision and should not go forward.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request by Business Insider for comment.

Biden has long faced a dilemma with Israel

On the one hand, Biden pledged “ironclad” support for Israel in the wake of the October 7 terrorist attacks, in which Hamas militants killed 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 240.

The US sent warships to the Israeli coast last October to deter potential attacks by Hamas allies Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militia.

And when Iran in April retaliated to an Israeli strike on its consulate in Damascus, Syria, with the first direct attack on Israel in its history, US forces helped to shoot down hundreds of Iranian drones and missiles.

Biden and Netanyahu embrace.

The US has provided huge sums of military aid to Israel since the start of the conflict, including weapons sales passed by Congress valued at around $250 million.

But Biden has also been desperate to prevent the war in Gaza from spiraling into a broader regional conflict that could pull in US energy and military resources at a time when they’re already stretched.

As the war in Gaza drags on and the civilian death toll mounts, he is also facing escalating domestic and political costs for his support for Israel.

Protests against Israel’s Gaza campaign have swept US campuses, and Biden is attracting declining support among the younger voters who helped propel him to victory in 2020. Analysts say that Biden’s handling of the Gaza war is among the issues corroding his support among them.

The Biden administration is seeking to help wind the conflict down.

US officials want to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and secure a deal for the release of the surviving Israeli hostages.

But Netanyahu has his own political priorities, with hardline members of his cabinet pushing him not to accept a cease-fire and press on with the mission to destroy Hamas.

Meanwhile, any sign of Biden backing away from his support for Israel leads to accusations from conservatives that he’s emboldening Iran, long the US’ main enemy in the region.

So whichever way Biden turns, the choices are grim.

Experts agree on one thing: the president’s authority is waning.

Dave Harden, a former mission director at the US Agency for International Development in the West Bank and Gaza, told the BBC in March that Netanyahu “almost treats Biden as some kind of inconsequential second secretary of a low-ranked European power.”

“The gap between Israel and the US just deepens,” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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