White House accuses Israel of ‘pulling stunts’ over weapons deliveries

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said it was 'inconceivable' that Washington was withholding weapons and ammunition at a time of war - Shaul Golan/AFP

The White House reportedly called off a high-level meeting with Israel on Iran after Benjamin Netanyahu publicly accused Washington of withholding arms deliveries.

“This decision makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts,” a US official told news website Axios after the Israeli prime minister lashed out at his ally in a video, saying it was “inconceivable” that Washington was withholding weapons and ammunition at a time of war.

The White House expressed surprise at his statement, which came just a week after Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, had offered assurances on the arms supplies issue to the Israeli prime minister during a visit to Jerusalem.

“We genuinely do not know what he is talking about,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary.

The White House denied that the meeting had been cancelled and insisted it was “finalising details”.

“As we said in the briefing yesterday, we have no idea what the prime minister is talking about, but that’s not a reason for rescheduling a meeting,” a White House official told The Times of Israel.

“We have been working to find a time to schedule the next SDG that accounts for the travel and availability of principals, but have not yet fully finalised the details so nothing has been canceled.”

Mr Blinken earlier said that one shipment of 2,000-pound bombs was still under review but everything else was “moving as it normally would”.

“The Americans are fuming. Bibi’s video made a lot of damage,” a senior Israeli official also told Axios, using a widely-used nickname for Mr Netanyahu.

Washington’s annoyance at his public criticisms was said to have been conveyed by Amos Hochstein, an envoy sent to the region this week by Joe Biden, the US president, to try to avert a major conflict on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Thousands of rockets, anti-tank missiles and explosive drones have been fired into Israel by Lebanon-based Hezbollah since the October 7 attacks, prompting the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) to retaliate with strikes against the terror group’s commanders.

A recent escalation in the intensity and firepower of the cross-border hostilities has triggered fears of the conflict tipping into a regional war.

On Tuesday, Israel warned Hezbollah of the consequences of an “all-out war” after the group released a nine-minute video which it boasted was drone footage of Israeli military and civilian locations in several cities, including the key port city of Haifa.

“We are very close to the moment of decision to change the rules of engagement with Hezbollah and Lebanon,” said Israel Katz, the foreign minister.

“In an all-out war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be severely damaged,” he warned.

Major General Ori Gordin, the head of the IDF’s northern command, and Major General Oded Basiuk, head of the operations directorate, also revealed that they had approved Lebanon battle plans.

The generals held an assessment, during which “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved”, the IDF said in a statement.

Israel has repeatedly said it will not tolerate a situation where tens of thousands of people have been forced to abandon their homes in the north under daily bombardment. Tens of thousands have also fled on the Lebanese side of the border.

Hezbollah has said it will attack the north as long as the war in Gaza continues. A ceasefire deal with Hamas could lead to a diplomatic solution along the Lebanese border. It could also free up more troops for military action there.

On Wednesday, a senior IDF commander operating in Rafah, southern Gaza, told Israel’s public broadcaster Kan that he believed the ground manoeuvre there would be concluded within a month.

On Sunday, Israel’s military said there would be a daily pause in its attacks along the road via the Kerem Shalom crossing to allow more humanitarian aid to enter.

However, the United Nations said it has since been unable to distribute aid in the Gaza Strip because of lawlessness and panic among hungry people in the area.

Aid groups also said that the $230 million temporary pier constructed by the US to facilitate aid deliveries has largely failed. It is expected to be dismantled earlier than expected.