The United States is blocking a $500 million arms deal between Israel and Croatia, for the resale of 12 US-made F-16 fighter jets refurbished and upgraded by Israel, Israeli officials told Axios.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the issue with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during their meeting in Brussels last Monday, according to Israeli officials who said Pompeo told Netanyahu he was not against the deal but Secretary of Defense James Mattis was blocking it.
US officials are furious that Israel upgraded the old F-16s with new and sophisticated Israeli-made electronic systems in order persuade the Croatians to buy the jets from Israel and not from the US, the report adds. The Americans claimed Israel was never supposed to sell the US-made jets to a third party without US approval – especially not in direct competition with the US.
According to the report, the Croatians are also furious that the deal is stuck and have conveyed a message to Israel that they expect it to solve the problem as soon as possible.
Croatia’s Defense Ministry allegedly doesn't believe that the problem is being caused by Mattis, who, in the beginning, was very much in favor of such a Croatian-Israeli agreement and was fully aware that Croatia is not in the financial position to take on the acquisition of the newest US F-16 aircraft block 70/72, which was initially offered by the Lockheed Martin manufacturer in the international tender, reports Večernji list.
[Further reading: Total Croatia News]