Large consignments of weapons and aircraft parts for the IDF and other security forces have been stuck for several weeks in customs warehouses because of a dispute between the Ministry of Defense and the Tax Authority.
First reported by Globes, the weapons, which include explosive, missiles, trucks and more, have been stuck in customs warehouses at Haifa and Ashdod ports and Ben-Gurion Airport. Other embargoed equipment include components and raw materials meant for Israel’s defense industries.
According to the report, the consignments were procured by a Ministry of Defense delegation which had been in New York and are part of the $3.8 US annual military aid to Israel.
“There has never been a situation in which the IDF has had to wait for equipment sent to it from the US,” a defense source was quoted by Globes as saying adding that “somebody unilaterally decided to change the rules without coordinating matters with the Defense Ministry, and so we’ve reached this situation.”
According to the defense source, there was a mechanism in place between the two agencies “for decades” which allowed the Ministry of Defense to pay three or four months after the military received the costly consignments.
“This equipment includes spare parts for combat jets, vital ammunition and more – and it is inconceivable that it should be held up for so long because of what seems to be power struggles,” the source said.
In a statement to The Jerusalem Post, the Israel Tax Authority said, “In January 2018, the State of Israel put online a new foreign trading system called ‘World Gateway.’ Consequently, all foreign trading organizations including the Ministry of Defense are required to streamline and transfer taxes digitally. As far as is known, the Ministry of Defense is organizing itself and transferring the taxes according to instructions.”
But, the Defense Ministry blamed the delays of the transfer of goods to the military on the Tax Authority.
“The Ministry of Defense is studying the implications of the decision and, together with all the bodies in the defense establishment, is holding a dialogue with the customs management,” read a statement provided to the Post. “This is to comply with, on the one hand, the new demands, and on the other hand to prevent harm to the operational needs of the defense establishment.”
The history of US aid to Israel began in 1949 with a $100 million Export-Import Bank Loan. But Washington imposed a total arms embargo on Israel until 1961, which led to Jerusalem relying on the USSR and then France for weapons.
In 1962 then-US President John F. Kennedy authorized the first direct arms sale, selling the Jewish state advanced weapons systems including the Hawk anti-aircraft missiles. In 1968, a year after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, the Johnson administration approved the sale of the Phantom jets to Israel, establishing the precedent for the US’ commitment to upholding Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors.
Following the signing of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, Washington provided $15.7b in grants and loans. Starting in 1985, American military aid to Israel was pegged at $3b annually, an amount which increased in the latest package signed with the Obama administration in 2016 to $38b in military aid over a decade.