An Israeli Air Force attack helicopter fires a missile while flying over the border with the Gaza Strip near southern Israel on November 8, 2023.

An Israeli Air Force attack helicopter fires a missile while flying over the border with the Gaza Strip near southern Israel on November 8, 2023. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

US approving arms for Israel ‘case-by-case,’ State official says

Stan Brown says Ukraine, Israel aren’t generally competing for similar weapons aid.

DUBAI, UAE—The United States is giving Israel weapons on a “case-by-case” basis, a top State Department official said, as intense airstrikes in Gaza continue and destruction mounts after the first month of the Israel-Hamas war.

“Just like in any country, the decision to send weapons to any particular country is a case-by-case review that occurs. Israel is no different in that than any other country in the world,” Stan Brown, principal deputy assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, said in an interview on Monday. “I don't want to get ahead of discussions about weapons or anything of that nature of what we would do in the future, as well as now. Again, the stance is that we've continued support.”

The Biden administration has placed no limits on how Israel uses U.S.-made arms in the conflict. And if U.S. defense firms have voiced concerns over how their products are being employed, Brown said he’s unaware of it. 

Still, some lawmakers are weary about the lack of transparency about what, exactly, is being sent to Israel. The administration has not publicly disclosed the quantities of weapons, nor provided anything like the fact sheets that have routinely been released about aid packages for Ukraine.

Brown argued that there is no difference in transparency between the two wars. There are “two different processes,” since most of the weapons sent to Ukraine are coming out of Defense Department stocks, while “the weapons that Israel has, they have been procuring weapons and we've been supporting Israel for many years through the Foreign Military Sales program and through our Foreign Military Funding, where we provide about $3.3 billion a year for Israel for security cooperation, as well as $500 million a year for air defense.”

As the U.S. sends weapons to Israel and Ukraine, it remains to be seen whether the defense industrial base can keep up with the high demand for arms. The Pentagon has reportedly given Israel thousands of 155mm artillery shells intended for Ukraine.

In “some cases, they are needing some of the same weapons and we have been able to provide both partners,” Brown said. 

Brown maintained that the U.S. can supply both Israel and Ukraine because the weapons needed by both countries are “significantly different” in most cases. “So there's not a huge competition for weapons amongst the partners, as far as the use.” 

When asked about the U.S. and its allies’ appetite to continue sending weapons to Ukraine, Brown said there’s a “continuing role” for the U.S. in the future. 

And despite reports that Ukraine has struggled to regain territory in Ukraine, Brown said he wouldn’t characterize the counteroffensive as a failure. 

“I know that when you look at certain criteria, Ukraine has taken back a significant amount of territory. Whether they have achieved all the goals that they wanted to achieve—we can debate that and quite frankly, it's a very difficult environment where you have a force that is going against the force that’s dug in and is going very slowly in that,” he said.  

Brown spoke with Defense One on the sidelines of the Dubai Air Show as the Israel-Hamas war continues on the region’s western edge. Despite the instability in the region, Brown said, “We’re seeing heightened participation” at the air show. However, the booths of major Israeli defense firms Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems were notably empty on the first day of the show.

“While we're working [on] the different issues associated with the region at large, the air show is an opportunity to demonstrate the partnership between the United States and the UAE, again, as I stated, who have been great partners,” he said. 

Brown said the U.S. will continue negotiations over the UAE’s proposed purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter this week. The UAE has wanted the jet for years but the Biden administration has yet to finalize a deal that was approved under Donald Trump to sell 50 F-35 stealth fighters to the UAE. 

Brown wouldn’t say what obstacles remain before the contract can be finalized, but emphasized that the U.S. remains supportive of the deal. Washington has voiced concern over the UAE’s relationship with China; for example, it opposed the UAE’s purchase of 5G gear and services from China’s Huawei

“There’s nothing new to share” on the state of negotiations, Brown said, but it's a “strong conversation. There continues to obviously be interest on both sides or else we wouldn't be talking about it and how this evolves, we’ll be working on over the next weeks and months.”