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Friday, September 23, 2011

Report: US sold Israel "bunker busting" bombs for settlement freeze (updated x2)

From Eli Lake at The Daily Beast/Newsweek:
While publicly pressuring Israel to make deeper concessions to the Palestinians, President Obama has secretly authorized significant new aid to the Israeli military that includes the sale of 55 deep-penetrating bombs known as bunker busters, Newsweek has learned.

In an exclusive story to be published Monday on growing military cooperation between the two allies, U.S. and Israeli officials tell Newsweek that the GBU-28 Hard Target Penetrators—potentially useful in any future military strike against Iranian nuclear sites—were delivered to Israel in 2009, just several months after Obama took office.

The military sale was arranged behind the scenes as Obama’s demands for Israel to stop building settlements in disputed territories were fraying political relations between the two countries in public.

The Israelis first requested the bunker busters in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.

In 2007, Bush informed Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010. The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the still-secret decision.

U.S. and Israeli officials told Newsweek that Israel had developed its own bunker-buster technology between 2005 and 2009, but the purchase from the U.S. was cheaper.

While the Obama administration has touted some public cooperation with the Israeli military, Newsweek’s article Monday will reveal other covert efforts by the U.S. military to aid Israel in the volatile Middle East region, and the impact the improving military cooperation has had on the sometimes chilly relations between Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the president’s popularity in the American Jewish community.
The leak must be intentional.

The story is quite believable. US military cooperation with Israel has remained high even as diplomatic relations appeared strained.  It also makes sense that this is why Netanyahu would have agreed to a settlement freeze to begin with.

According to a Wikileaks cable, the transfer of the GBU-28s were described as "upcoming" in November 2009. The freeze started in December 2009.

However, it looks like the Bush administration did send GBU-28s to Israel during the Lebanon war and even beforehand.

(h/t Yoel, T34, JD)