Netanyahu Tells US ‘Give Us the Tools and We’ll Finish the Job’

(Bloomberg) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said President Joe Biden is withholding weapons amid the war against Hamas as his country is “fighting for its life,” an accusation the White House denied.

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In an English-language video released Tuesday, Netanyahu said he told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to Israel last week that he appreciates Washington’s support but that it’s “inconceivable” that weapons or ammunition have been held back in the past few months.

That video angered the White House and prompted the Biden administration to cancel a high-level meeting with Israel about Iran that was scheduled for Thursday, Axios reported, citing two US officials. US envoy Amos Hochstein delivered the administration’s frustration directly in a meeting with Netanyahu, according to the report.

US officials didn’t immediately respond to a question about the meeting. Earlier, the White House denied that any weapons are being withheld beyond a previous decision to hold back on the delivery of some bombs. “We genuinely do not know what he’s talking about,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. “We just don’t.”

The Biden administration has become increasingly critical of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip to root out Hamas, the group designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union that killed more than 1,200 Israelis and abducted more than 250 on Oct. 7, triggering the ongoing war. More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, which doesn’t differentiate between combatants and civilians.

Biden previously held back a shipment of 2,000-pound bombs to signal his frustration and said last month that he would halt additional shipments of offensive weapons if the country launched a full-scale ground invasion of Rafah. Israeli tanks were reported to have reached the center of the town May 28, in what the military called a limited and precise set of operations.

Blinken told reporters Tuesday that aside from that one shipment, “everything else is moving as it normally would move.”

Earlier: Israel Pauses Combat on Road in Gaza to Allow for More Aid

Netanyahu didn’t specify which weapons or ammunition supposedly had been withheld by the US, Israel’s biggest arms supplier. The Israeli leader added that Blinken assured him the administration is working “day and night” to remove any bottlenecks. His office didn’t respond to follow-up questions.

Netanyahu, who’s scheduled to address the US Congress in late July, invoked the World War II plea of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

“Churchill told the United States: ‘Give us the tools, we’ll do the job,’” Netanyahu said. “And I say, give us the tools and we’ll finish the job a lot faster.’”

Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who has urged a pause in the transfer of offensive weapons to Israel until it agrees to conditions on their use, scoffed in an interview Tuesday that “Netanyahu wants to come here and pretend he’s Winston Churchill — and he is no Winston Churchill.”

US officials have said privately that Israel has enough weapons for its Rafah campaign, as well as additional stockpiles if the conflict in the north with Hezbollah escalates.

Two key Democratic holdouts in the House and Senate signed off on a major arms sale to Israel, including 50 F-15 fighter jets valued at more than $18 billion, following pressure from the White House and pro-Israel advocates, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

--With assistance from Ethan Bronner, Courtney McBride, Steven T. Dennis, Iain Marlow, Jennifer Jacobs, Eric Martin and Justin Sink.

(Adds report of US-Israel meeting getting canceled in third paragraph.)

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