Israeli and U.S. sources said the State Department has blocked the transfer of weapons and technology to the Jewish state over the last three months. The sources said the halt reflected deteriorating relations between the two countries since the end of the war in Lebanon in August 2006. "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 unofficial suspension of U.S. arms deliveries began in late September, the sources said. They said the suspension halted the airlift of air-to-ground and other munitions conducted during and immediately after the Israeli war with Hizbullah. "Several weeks after the war, the U.S. supplies stopped," the source aid. "There was no real explanation."
The sources said the administration has held up a list of weapons requested by Israel in wake of the Lebanon war. They said the weapons and equipment -- including the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM -- were ment to replenish munitions and other stocks in preparation for a larger war that would include Syria in mid-2007. "The administration has not rejected any Israeli request," a U.S. official said. "Instead, the State Department and Defense Department have said that all requests must be examined."
The administration refusal to approve the Israeli requests has also hampered military cooperation between the two countries. In November, the Israel Air Force canceled plans to send delegations to the United States to examine air systems and munitions. A U.S. official said the White House was deeply disappointed by the Israeli failure to defeat Hizbullah. The official said the war undermined U.S. confidence in Israel's military and government. "The word in the White House was that Israel lost the war," the official said. "That alone led to a plummet in Israel's stock in the administration, particularly the Pentagon."
The U.S. refusals have also hampered Israeli defense programs. The sources said the State Department has prevented the transfer of data and technology, even from projects that included Israeli participation. In one case, State prevented Northrop Grumman from providing details ofits Skyguard laser weapon, which the company has sought to sell to Israel. The ban led to the suspension of Israeli negotiations to procure Skyguard, designed to intercept short-range rockets and missiles.
The sources said the halt in U.S. weapons exports to Israel was designed to assuage Saudi Arabia. They said Riyad has increasingly linked regional cooperation with Washington to pressure on Israel to halt attacks on Palestinian insurgency strongholds in the Gaza Strip. "The White House believes that Saudi help is vital for the United States in Iraq," a diplomatic source said. "There's nothing like stopping the weapons flow to Israel to show the Saudis that the United States means business."
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