Israel blocks transfer of Iron Dome System to ukraine, US senators say

By Arie Egozi

Two US senators said on Friday that Israel was preventing Washington from sending two Iron Dome batteries it owns to Ukraine in order to strengthen Kiev's air defence against Russia.

“If we move those batteries, we’ll be able to save more Ukrainian lives today. The Government of Israel has, however, prevented the United States from transferring these batteries,” according to a letter from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Senator Chris Van Hollen to the chairmen of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Even though it was sponsored by the US, Israel developed the Iron Dome, and it has a veto over whether the US can sell this air defence system to other countries. In 2021, the US purchased two Iron Dome systems from the Israeli company Rafael. The US has since deployed the two systems in different areas to protect its forces.

Israel found itself in a very problematic position regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The dilemma was whether to supply advanced weapon systems to Ukraine or let neighboring countries transfer these to Ukraine. The unavoidable decision was that no Israeli-made weapons would be in the hands of the Ukrainians. Israel did what it could to avoid the participation of Israeli weapons in the fighting against the Russians, and the reward was immediate. The Kremlin told the Israeli Prime Minister during his visit to Moscow that the freedom of action Israel has in attacking Iranian-related targets in Syria will continue.

Immediately after the invasion started, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania announced they had received permission to transmit US-made weapons to Ukraine as part of an effort to support Kyiv in the face of a potential Russian invasion. These three countries are using different versions of the Rafael Spike anti-tank missiles, which the Ukrainians wanted due to their proven lethality in combat.

Like the US, Israel puts strict “end-user” regulations on weapons sold abroad, which legally restrict the ability of the buying country to send the equipment to a third party without permission from the original producer. Israel could release the Baltic nations or others to transfer those capabilities, but that seems extremely unlikely, given Israel’s desire to avoid antagonizing the Putin regime.

Israel-Ukrainian relations are overshadowed by the Israeli interest in keeping a good channel with the Kremlin, which is needed to allow Israel to operate in Syria against shipments of Iranian-made weapons systems on their way to Hezbollah in Lebanon. “Every type of indirect intervention in this crisis can harm the special relations between Jerusalem and Moscow,” explained a senior Israeli defence expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Eldad Shavit, a senior researcher at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), recently wrote about how Israel needs to balance its political ties to both Washington and Moscow. “It is important to emphasize again that these developments also require Israel to immediately formulate a policy and prepare for the possibility that the crisis will develop into a military confrontation,” Shavit wrote. “Even if there is a desire and need in Israel to continue to maintain good relations with Russia, it may be in conflict with US administration policy, especially if a decision is made to significantly increase diplomatic and economic sanctions against Russia.”



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