BRUSSELS — Ukraine’s allies have spent the past 18 months very carefully calibrating what weapons they’ll send to Kyiv and putting restrictions on their use, but NATO defense ministers on Thursday showed no such reservations about Israel as they promised to send arms needed to combat Hamas.
Lloyd Austin, the Secretary of Defense for the United States, justified Israel’s use of American weapons despite criticisms of their tactics in Gaza, such as the withholding of essential resources like fuel, water, and electricity.
Austin stated at NATO headquarters in Brussels that there are no conditions attached to the security assistance being provided to Israel.
As the defense ministers of the group concluded their two-day meeting on Thursday, there were worries that Israel’s response to terror attacks by Hamas may be excessive. This is due to concerns that Iran could potentially gain from the situation.
Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary-General of NATO, specifically mentioned Iran and the Hezbollah group based in Lebanon as potential participants in the attacks. This is despite the Iranian authorities denying any involvement.
“There is a constant concern that countries or groups who are hostile towards Israel may attempt to exploit the situation. This includes organizations such as Hezbollah or countries like Iran,” he stated during a press briefing. “Therefore, this serves as a warning to any countries or organizations with hostile intentions towards Israel to refrain from taking advantage of the current circumstances.”
There are varying levels of concern among different countries regarding the extent of actions taken by the Israeli military in Gaza.
Stoltenberg emphasized the importance of safeguarding civilians as the conflict progresses, which was also reiterated by allies. He mentioned the existence of rules of war and the need for proportionality, which was echoed by numerous allies.
The Defense Minister of Spain, Margarita Robles, publicly urged Israel to adhere to international law and emphasized that there is no room for interpretation.
However, diplomats report that discussions regarding Israel were brief and did not delve into specifics regarding humanitarian laws. This is because the primary focus of the meeting was to express solidarity with Israel.
On Thursday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant participated in the NATO meeting through an online platform. As per his office, Gallant shared a video containing unedited footage of Hamas’ actions.
A diplomat who was given confidentiality to talk about the closed-door conversation described the situation as “highly visual.”
Gallant reassured the group that although they have faced difficulties, 2023 is not comparable to 1943 when the Jews suffered in the Nazi Holocaust. He emphasized that while they are still the same people, they now have stronger abilities and a powerful state of Israel. The Jews are united and resilient.
Some of the abilities include new promises of support from important partners.
The German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, promised to allow Israel to utilize two Heron drones, which are currently under the control of the German air force. Additionally, U.S. President Joe Biden has prioritized replenishing Israel’s supply of Iron Dome munitions and air defense systems.
The attention on Israel serves as a reminder of the decreased focus on Ukraine, despite receiving security guarantees from multiple NATO nations this week. The U.S., along with Denmark and the Netherlands, have formed a new coalition for training F-16 fighter pilots. The coalition will utilize donated fighter jets from Denmark, the Netherlands, and Belgium, as the U.S. remains hesitant to send their own jets to Ukraine.
Austin affirmed that the United States will continue to support Israel and Ukraine simultaneously, stating, “There is no doubt that we can support both countries concurrently.”