US will reimburse Israel for weapons transferred to Ukraine

The stockpile of weapons is held in Israel for US use across the Middle East, and Israel itself has withdrawn ammunition from it in the past.

 Ukrainian servicemen fire a Polish self-propelled howitzer Krab toward Russian positions, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on a frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine January 17, 2023.  (photo credit: REUTERS/OLEKSANDR RATUSHNIAK)
Ukrainian servicemen fire a Polish self-propelled howitzer Krab toward Russian positions, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, on a frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine January 17, 2023.
(photo credit: REUTERS/OLEKSANDR RATUSHNIAK)

The Biden administration will replenish any US weapons it recently transferred to Ukraine from an American stockpile long located in Israel, an IDF source confirmed on Wednesday.

The weapons transfer would not in any way impact Israel’s readiness for any emergency situation or conflict, the source explained, hours after The New York Times published an article on the depletion of the stockpile, designed to quickly help the Jewish state access arms during wartime

Israel has kept a neutral stance when it comes to Russia’s war against Ukraine, which began last February. It has opposed sending any Israeli arms or defensive military equipment to Ukraine.

Earlier Wednesday morning, the New York Times was the first to report the US transfer of weapons and ammunition to Ukraine that it regularly stores in Israel for use in the event of a sudden conflict in the area.

The US weapons transfer does not reflect any change in Israel’s stance of neutrality in the Russian-Ukrainian war, in which it has denounced Moscow’s invasion but has not joined the West in sending arms to Ukraine.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Pentagon as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomes him earlier this month. (credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)Defense Minister Benny Gantz arrives at the Pentagon as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin welcomes him earlier this month. (credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

American manufacturers have not kept pace with Ukraine’s military as it defends itself against Russia’s invasion in a war that appears to have no end in sight.

To augment the ongoing manufacturing of new weapons and ammunition, Washington decided to tap its weapons reserves stored in Israel.

Around half of the 300,000 rounds of ammunition destined for Ukraine have already been shipped to Europe and will be delivered via Poland, Israeli and US officials confirmed.

No shift in policy

An IDF spokesperson told the Times that the transfer of US weapons from Israel to Ukraine does not signify a shift in Israeli policy when it comes to providing Ukraine with military aid.

Rather, an IDF spokesperson said matter-of-factly, "a few weeks ago, based on a US request, certain equipment was transferred to the US from its stockpiles in Israel." According to the Times, the possibility of moving US weapons from Israel to Ukraine first arose in the early months of the war.

Although the weapons do not belong to Israel, the transfer still needed approval from the last government headed by former prime minister Yair Lapid.

Israel initially expressed concerns over the transfer of weapons, the Times stated, worried that it would damage the country's relationship with Russia. However, around half of the 300,000 rounds destined for Ukraine have already been shipped to Europe and will be delivered via Poland, Israeli and US officials confirmed to the media outlet.

The deal to do so was not concluded until the second half of last year, following an encrypted phone conversation between then-defense minister Benny Gantz and US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.

Gantz brought the issue to the cabinet. After a meeting in which various opinions were heard, Lapid approved the request.

Cleverly said, “It’s very easy to get focused on individual equipment types, and of course, tanks are the headline of today. But in our package of military support there were heavy artillery, the AS-90 system and the M-109 system, the 155-caliber guns, as well as 105-caliber guns, as well as 100,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, millions of rounds of small-arms ammunition.”

Israel itself has not supplied military aid to Ukraine. Aside from concerns that doing so would damage Jerusalem’s relationship with Moscow, there are worries that providing such weaponry could result in armaments falling into the wrong hands.

However, Israel sent large shipments of humanitarian aid to Ukraine throughout last year, and helped establish a field hospital in the country back in March 2022.

The last government did agree to provide Ukraine with an early alert system to better notify Uranian citizens of the location off incoming missiles, but that technology has yet to be delivered.

According to the Times, the possibility of moving US weapons from Israel to Ukraine first arose in the early months of the war, but a deal to do so was not reached until recently, in an encrypted phone conversation between then-defense minister Benny Gantz and US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III.

Gantz then brought the issue to the cabinet, and after a meeting in which various opinions were heard, then-prime minister Yair Lapid approved the request.

Ukraine has repeatedly urged Israel to supply more than just humanitarian aid, with Ukrainian Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk telling The Jerusalem Post earlier this month, “Unfortunately, we cannot win the war with bandages and antibiotics. We are in need of defensive equipment including but not limited to anti-missile and anti-drone systems."

The ambassador urged Israel’s new government to send defensive weapons to protect its civilians, saying, “Israel has to be on the right side of history.”

The previous government agreed to provide Ukraine with an early-warning system to better notify Ukrainian citizens of the location of incoming missiles, but that technology has yet to be delivered.

Ukraine brought the issue up repeatedly with the last government, Korniychuk said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke of the matter in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just after the government was sworn in late last month but did not receive any commitment on the matter.

Israel “knows exactly what we need,” Korniychuk said.

Israeli use of US weapons

The US has stockpiled weapons in Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973. In some cases, Washington has allowed Jerusalem to withdraw munitions from its supplies, including during the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, according to a report on Army Radio.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.