U.S. won’t use arms transfers to press Israel for cease-fire

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — The Obama administration will not leverage arms transfers to Israel to bring about a cease-fire, the top Pentagon spokesman said.

The arms and ammunition provided to Israel is “through a longstanding foreign military sales program,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Saturday. “Israel is a staunch ally in that part of the world. And that program has existed for many years, and we’re supplying that material through that program.”

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Kirby stressed that the United States has made it clear that it would like to see a cease-fire and an end to violence in Gaza.

He added, “We respect the right for Israel to have to defend itself. And as I said before, I think the Israelis would tell you that the — and I won’t speak for them, but I think it’s safe to say that, you know, that they would like to see a return to peace, as well.

“It is made more difficult when Hamas hides behind civilian targets, deliberately puts civilians in harm’s way and indiscriminately fires rockets into Israel.”

Asked what the Department of Defense would like Israel to do to minimize civilian casualties in Gaza, Kirby responded, “I’m not going to litigate from the podium what the Israeli Defense Forces need to do operationally. We’ve made our concerns about civilian casualties known to them, concerns that Minister [Moshe] Yaalon shared himself.”

Kirby reiterated that the U.S. government has put pressure on Israel to reduce civilian casualties.