Biden’s move on weapons supplies is latest test of US-Israel relations

By Thomson Reuters May 9, 2024 | 6:36 AM

(Reuters) – Here are some milestones in Israel’s ties with the United States, now strained by Israeli government plans for a major assault on Rafah in southern Gaza and a warning by President Joe Biden that U.S. weapons sales will be withheld if it goes ahead:


President Harry Truman becomes the first world leader to recognize the newly-established Israel.


Furious with Israel’s capture of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt in a campaign with France and Britain, the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower insists on unconditional Israeli withdrawal and threatens to suspend vital U.S. financial aid to Israel unless it pulls out. It does so.


The U.S. stands behind Israel in its June war with surrounding Arab states. But relations are jolted by Israel’s attack in international waters on the Liberty, a U.S. spy ship. Thirty-four American seamen are killed and 174 wounded. Israel apologized, saying it had mistaken the Liberty for an Egyptian ship.


President Richard Nixon airlifts military hardware to Israel after Egypt and Syria, which lost territory in the 1967 war, launched a surprise attack on Israel on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.


The U.S. administration of President Gerald Ford threatens to reappraise ties with Israel unless it signs a “disengagement” treaty with Egypt to pull back from the Sinai peninsula, captured in 1967.


President Jimmy Carter hosts the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, concluded in talks at Camp David. Israel eventually withdraws from the Sinai peninsula.


The U.S. condemns Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor.


President Ronald Reagan expresses what a spokesman calls “outrage” to Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin over Israeli bombing raids in Beirut during a war in Lebanon, and pressures him into a ceasefire.

Reagan imposed a six-year ban on cluster bombs sales to Israel after a Congressional investigation found Israeli forces had used the weapons in populated areas of Lebanon.


Secretary of State James Baker says the U.S. is growing weary of Israeli foot-dragging over peace negotiations with the Palestinians and recites a White House telephone number, urging both sides “to call us when you are serious about peace”.


President George Bush Sr. pushes Israel to stay out of first Gulf War, concerned that an Israeli attack on Iraq would cause a U.S.-led coalition to disintegrate.

Washington withholds $10 billion in loan guarantees sought by Israel to absorb the immigration of Soviet Jews, piling pressure on Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to attend the Madrid peace conference. Bush says he will not grant the guarantees unless Israel freezes settlement-building in territories captured in the 1967 war.


Bush approves Israel’s loan guarantees request after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin offers a limited curtailment of settlement-building.


President Bill Clinton hosts a handshake between Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the signing of a Declaration of Principles on interim Palestinian self-government.


Clinton hosts a summit between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Wye River, Maryland. Netanyahu agrees to hand over more occupied land to Palestinian self-rule.


President George W. Bush announces a “road map” peace plan, three years after the start of a Palestinian uprising, setting an outline for an end to violence and return to statehood talks.


Bush tells Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that “existing major Israeli population centers” – an indirect reference to Jewish settlement enclaves in the occupied West Bank – make it “unrealistic” to expect Israel to return to armistice lines drawn in 1949.


Bush tells Israel’s parliament the unbreakable bond between Israel and the U.S. runs deeper than any treaty and is grounded in the shared link to the Bible.


Israel announces the building of more settler homes around Jerusalem during a visit by President Barack Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls the move “insulting”.


Netanyahu lectures Obama in the White House Oval Office days after Obama stated publicly that “the borders between Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines”.


Obama says the international community does not believe that Israel is serious about a two-state solution.


Obama, in the final weeks of his presidency, allows a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building to be adopted by withholding the U.S. veto. It breaks with a history of U.S. shielding Israel at the United Nations.


Reversing decades of U.S. policy, President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The new U.S. embassy opens there in 2018.


The Trump administration recognizes Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory captured from Syria in the 1967 war. The U.S. is the only country to do this.


Oct. 7 – U.S. President Joe Biden offers Israel “all appropriate means of support” after the Palestinian militant group Hamas launches its Oct. 7 attack on Israel from Gaza, and warns “any party hostile to Israel” not to seek advantage.

Dec. 12 – Biden warns Israel it is losing international support because of its “indiscriminate” bombing of Gaza civilians in its war against Hamas militants.


Feb. 8 – Biden says he seeks a “sustained pause in the fighting” and that Israel’s military response in Gaza had been “over the top”.

Feb. 11 – Biden tells Netanyahu Israel should not launch a military operation in Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there.

March 12 – Netanyahu says Israel will press forward with its military campaign into Rafah.

May 8 – President Joe Biden publicly warns Israel for the first time that the U.S. would stop supplying it with weapons if Israeli forces make a major invasion of Rafah.

May 9 – Israeli forces mass tanks close to built-up areas of Rafah.

(Compiled by Tom Perry; Editing by Philippa Fletcher)