The United States is going to authorize the sale of F-15 fighter jets to Israel

(CNN) — The Biden administration is poised to approve the sale of 50 American-made F-15 fighter jets to Israel in a deal expected to be worth more than $18 billion, according to three people familiar with the matter.

It would mark the largest US foreign military sale to Israel since the country went to war with Hamas on October 7, coming as the administration is also expected to report to Congress soon. A major new sale of precision-guided ammunition kits to Israel, the people said.

New sales of some of the most sophisticated US weapons show that the US While continuing to support Israel militarily, Biden administration officials have been critical of Israel’s operations in Gaza, which have killed more than 32,000 Palestinians since October, according to Gaza. Ministry of Health.

The sale is likely to be heavily debated in the Congress, especially among members of the President’s own party. In recent months, Israel has been The arms sales have come under intense scrutiny, and Democratic lawmakers have called for a freeze on military aid to Israel until it allows more humanitarian aid to Gaza and does more to protect Palestinians. Citizens of the area.

The United States has sold more than 100 pieces of military hardware to Israel since a Hamas attack on Israel in October that killed more than 1,200 Israelis. Most of them did not exceed certain dollar amounts that require notification to Congress, an official familiar with the matter previously told CNN.

But the $18 billion F-15 sale is significant enough to require notification to Congress, and the administration informally notified the House Foreign Affairs and US Foreign Affairs committees. The Senate sold the F-15s in late January. People familiar with the matter.

The informal notification gives lawmakers and congressional staffers time to review the details and ask questions before the State Department sends a formal notification to all lawmakers.

Senator James Risch, the top Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has approved the sale, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. A congressional aide told CNN that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul has also approved moving the deal to formal congressional notification.

But Sen. Ben Cardin, the committee’s Democratic chairman, as well as the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Greg Meeks can block the sale even if they object.

If there are no objections, the State Department will send a formal notification to all lawmakers, who will then have 30 days to block the sale through a joint resolution of disapproval. According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress has never blocked an arms sale through such a resolution, which must be approved by both chambers.

Democrats are also increasingly concerned about the Biden administration’s continued practice of sharing intelligence with Israel, which on Oct. 7 was expanded by order of President Joe Biden after the Hamas attack.

Some of that intelligence support is in the form of so-called raw intelligence that is intended to be used to locate Israeli hostages, but could also be used to identify Hamas targets, the sources told CNN. Hamas fighters often blend into civilian areas, some officials have said.

Meanwhile, a growing number of American diplomats are frustrated by the administration’s reluctance to use its influence on Israel to change its approach to the ongoing war.

“What you’re hearing about frustration in the administration over Israel policy is real,” a US diplomat told CNN on condition of anonymity. “We’re being asked to act in ways that ignore what we’re seeing on the ground.”

Diplomats also told CNN they were frustrated by the administration’s efforts to play down the U.S. absence from last week’s U.N. vote on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. These diplomats said the US insistence that the resolution be non-binding and consistent with existing US policy could send a bold message to Israel.

These disgruntled diplomats said they wanted the US to Threatening future arms sales to Israel would help prevent bloody fighting, but the proposed sale of F-15s and precision-guided munitions suggests the administration has no plans to restrict short-term military aid.

The F-15s will not be delivered immediately

Unlike precision-guided munitions, the new F-15 will have to be built from scratch and won’t be delivered to Israel for another 4 or 5 years.

Israeli officials have urged the US to speed up the deadline if possible, CNN previously reported.

In addition to around 50 aircraft, the package includes engines, weapons systems, radar and navigation systems for the planes, according to three sources. The package provides construction and contractor support and logistics infrastructure for fleet training, sustainment and maintenance, as well as mid-life upgrades for Israel’s current F-15 fleet.

A State Department spokesman said: “We cannot confirm potential or pending US arms transfers before Congress has been formally notified.”

Sources said the Biden administration quietly authorized the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Israel last week. That sale did not require notification to Congress because the planned sale was notified to Congress in 2008.

A State Department spokesman said that “as a practical matter, large acquisitions such as Israel’s F-35 program, for example, are often divided into several cases over several years.”

Sources told CNN it was unclear why the Biden administration would allow such a large sale now, during an election year in which the president’s Israel policy is under scrutiny. The sale is not particularly urgent, as Israel will not receive the planes for a few years.

Josh Paul, who worked at the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for more than a decade before resigning in October, continued US arms transfers to Israel, saying the US clearly thinks Israel needs the equipment “for its long-term defense.” is “

“But there is a feeling on Israel’s part that right now the door is open for what they want, so now is the time to ask for it,” he said. “Who knows how long the barn doors will be open?”

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment on the proposed sale.

“The United States has been committed to Israel’s security for decades,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Monday. “Israel is surrounded by organizations that have sworn to its destruction, not just Hamas, but Iran and subsidiary groups that Iran sponsors, among them Hezbollah, who have repeatedly spoken of their desire for the destruction of Israel. We believe that Israel have every right to defend against. those opponents.”

Growing concern over intelligence sharing with the United States

When it comes to intelligence sharing with Israel, the United States has offered the Israeli government a significant amount of processing capacity, according to two sources familiar with the matter — essentially, computing power that allows Israel to access large amounts of intercepts, images and other raw material to gain meaningful trends or insights. intellect

In principle, the intelligence community is not allowed to share information with its partners that could be used to violate the international laws of armed conflict, and US officials insist that they are not providing what Israel calls “targeting intelligence”; In this case, intelligence is used to precisely target Hamas fighters or locations.

Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder said in November that the US military was “not involved in developing IDF targets” and that its involvement was only to help locate the hostages.

But several sources familiar with US exchange efforts who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said it was a distinction without a difference. Once the US After providing intelligence to Israel, it has no control over how Israel combines it with other information and nothing to prevent Israel from using that information to attack Hamas operatives, the sources said.

“Israel ensures that operations using US intelligence are conducted in accordance with international law, including the laws of armed conflict, which require the protection of civilians,” a senior intelligence official told CNN in response to questions about the information sharing.

Even as the Biden administration continues to press Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties, sources said intelligence has continued to flow.

“In the absence of robust oversight, it is impossible to understand how allies and partners are using US intelligence in military operations,” wrote Steven Katz, currently a civilian in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. , in an article published on the national security blog Just Security, in which he advocates for greater oversight of intelligence sharing by Congress.

“In some cases, the IC may provide indirect support through the sharing of intelligence to partner operations conducted inconsistently with US law and policy,” he said.

According to Katz, the State Department has a process to investigate reports of civilian deaths caused by US weapons used by other countries, but there is no law that requires the intelligence community to track how US intelligence may have contributed to civilian deaths.

A provision in the annual intelligence bill currently before Congress would require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to submit to Congress an annual report detailing civilian casualties caused by foreign government operations in which intelligence shared by the United States “played a significant role. . . but that bill still Not approved yet.

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