Israeli ministers approve $9 billion deal for US warplanes, military equipment
Defence Minister Benny Gantz attended a seven-hour cabinet meeting where a preliminary decision was reached, ending a three-year dispute between the finance and defence ministries on the method of payment.
The hefty deal is said to include the procurement of Chinook helicopters, F-35 warplanes and aerial refueling tankers, as well as thousands of bombs and munitions.
The finance ministry had opposed the deal since it would be paid for by loans from US banks, according to Israel media.
Yet the ministry was overruled in a move possibly linked to a two-week deadline by Washington for Israel to authorise the deal or lose priority in US assembly lines.
While details of the deal are yet to be finalised, it comes as Presdient Joe Biden's administration last month announced reviews of massive arms packages to the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The State Department said it was temporarily pausing sales authorised by former president Donald Trump, including munitions to Riyadh and a $23 billion package of F-35 jets to Abu Dhabi.
The plan to sell the stealth fighters had stirred controversy in both Washington and Tel Aviv amid fears that it would impact Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME) in the region.
The US has long maintained a policy of ensuring Israel's military remains better equipped than those of surrounding Arab nations, including its allies.
A $38 billion, decade-spanning defense package was approved by former president Barack Obama to Israel before leaving office in 2016.
Last month, Gregory Meeks, the new chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, played down the prospect of leveraging that sum to Israel to pressure it to accept a Palestinian state as part of efforts by Joe Biden’s administration to push for a two-state solution.
"I'm not for altering any of those dollars," Meeks told AFP.