Senior Israeli official says US slow-walking aid, which US disputes

Conflicting account comes as Sen. Schumer says Israel should elect new a leader.

A senior Israeli official says the United States has begun slow-walking some military aid to Israel -- an assertion senior U.S. officials denied was the case, in what's perhaps more evidence that the relationship between the two allies is growing increasingly strained.

The conflicting account came as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer -- the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in the U.S. -- said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has "lost his way" and should hold an election for a potential replacement.

"I believe that to achieve that lasting peace -- which we so long for -- Israel must make some significant course corrections," Schumer said Thursday.

According to a senior Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the U.S. military aid shipments at the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war "were coming very fast," but "we are now finding that it's very slow,” which has put pressure on Israel as it attempts to destroy the terrorist Hamas organization in Gaza.

The official said he was not sure what the cause was, but that Israel was fully aware of the United States' frustration with the war, and that Israel needed to do more to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza.

When asked about the allegation, several U.S. officials said there was no change in U.S. policy or any deliberate delay in delivering previously promised aid or weapons sales to Israel.

Under a 10-year agreement negotiated by then-President Barack Obama, the U.S. provides about $3.8 billion in military and missile defense systems every year.

U.S. officials say there have been discussions on what kind of leverage the U.S. might have with Israel to pressure Netanyahu to do more to protect civilians, particularly as it considers expanding its military operations by invading Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city. But the U.S. officials also noted that no decisions have been made on whether to use any leverage and said it's possible additional aid -- not less -- would be offered as an incentive.

Destroyed buildings are seen through the window of a U.S. Air Force airplane flying over the Gaza Strip, Mar. 14, 2024.
Leo Correa/AP

When asked about a potential slow walk in weapons aid or sales, White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby said the U.S. is continuing to provide Israel with what it needs.

"I'm not gonna get into the timeline for every individual system that's being provided," he told ABC News. "We continue to support Israel with their self-defense needs. That's not going to change, and we have been very, very direct about that."

Also on Thursday, the U.S. government announced sanctions against three Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank and two settlements for violence they allegedly committed against Palestinians, including the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes and land.

According to the senior Israeli official, in increasingly short supply are 155 mm artillery shells and 120 mm tank shells. The U.S. had been supplying similar munitions to Ukraine, which also reports specifically running low on 155 mm artillery shells.

The senior Israeli official said some sensitive guidance equipment was also needed, but declined to elaborate. The person said any delays are particularly worrisome because European states are also now reluctant to sell arms to Israel.

The official added that Israel "might lose this war" because in order to win, Israel needs ammunition and legitimacy, and both are starting to run out, he said.

The Israel Defense Forces declined to comment to ABC News.

Destroyed buildings are seen through the window of a U.S. Air Force airplane flying over the Gaza Strip, Mar. 14, 2024.
Leo Correa/AP

Regarding Schumer's comment, Netanyahu's Likud party said in a statement that "Israel is not a banana republic but an independent and proud democracy" that elected the prime minister.

"Contrary to Schumer's words, the Israeli public supports a complete victory over Hamas, rejects any international dictate to establish a Palestinian terrorist state, and opposes the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza," the statement read. The senator "is expected to respect Israel's elected government and not undermine it," the party said. "This is always true, and even more so in wartime."

The dispute over whether the U.S. is pulling support for Israel comes about five months into Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip, where it is attempting to destroy the Hamas network and free Israeli and international hostages.

Palestinian Islamist militants carried out an unprecedented incursion from Gaza into southern Israel by air, land and sea on Oct. 7, 2023, killing more than 1,200 people and taking 253 others hostage, according to Israeli authorities. More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 72,000 others have been injured in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Rising international pressure on Israel over some of its tactics in accomplishing its military goals means a hostage or cease-fire deal is less likely in the near future, the senior Israeli official told ABC News. But the official said a positive international perception in general has become more important than ammunition because, he said, Israel can defeat its enemies on the battlefield but would lose the war if it becomes a pariah state.

The United Nations and other organizations have warned that Gaza is on the brink of famine due to the limited amount of food and humanitarian aid entering the coastal enclave, particularly in the north, which has been isolated by the Israeli military and largely cut off from aid for weeks, according to the U.N.

Hunger in Gaza is at a "catastrophic level" and more than 90% of Gaza's population of 2.2 million people faces acute food insecurity, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said Tuesday.

The U.S. Central Command announced over the weekend that it had begun dropping water and meals into northern Gaza, while also deploying the first of some 1,000 U.S. troops to the coast to build a pier that will be able to facilitate more aid.

Humanitarian aid being airdropped from a military aircraft over the Gaza Strip, March 11, 2024.
Jordanian army/AFP via Getty Images

Col. Elad Goren, head of Israel's Civil Department of the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), told ABC News on Thursday that Israeli officials are listening to U.S. criticism that more aid is needed.

"Yes, of course," Goren said.

The maritime corridors, airdrops and truck convoys supplying aid are also running into the headwinds of Israeli politics. A significant proportion of the country supports blocking aid to Gaza, the senior Israeli official said.

That position puts those factions in Israel at direct odds with top Biden aides and Schumer, who argue increased humanitarian aid is not in conflict with Israeli security.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog on Thursday called Schumer's comments calling for a new election in Israel "counterproductive."

"Israel is a sovereign democracy. It is unhelpful, all the more so as Israel is at war against the genocidal terror organization Hamas, to comment on the domestic political scene of a democratic ally. It is counterproductive to our common goals," Herzog said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

ABC News' MaryAlice Parks, Nadine El-Bawab and Mary Kekatos contributed to this story.

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