On May 8, 2024, CNN interviewed US President Joseph Biden, who confirmed that a shipment of weapons to Israel had been halted after his administration asserted that certain types of weapons had been used to kill civilians. This suspended shipment, first reported by Axios, includes 1,800 2,000-pound bombs, 1,700 500-pound bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), and Small Diameter Bombs (SDB-1). According to US officials, the delay is approximately two weeks. JDAMs are guidance kits that convert unguided bombs into precision-guided munitions, and SDB-1s are small 250-pound precision-guided bombs.

President Biden declared that Israel has not yet crossed his red line but stated that he would stop sending weapon shipments if Israel conducts an operation in Rafah. Earlier in the week, Israel seized control of the Rafah border crossing, which the Biden administration considers a limited operation, not a full-scale invasion.

The Israeli government’s response has been sharp. On X (formerly Twitter), Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, claimed that President Biden “loves Hamas.” This statement was heavily criticized by opposition leader Yair Lapid, President Isaac Herzog, and several Members of Parliament, some of whom called for Ben-Gvir’s removal as National Security Minister. In a speech on Thursday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant responded to President Biden’s remarks by asserting that Israel will achieve its security goals by attacking both Hamas and Hezbollah. Days before President Biden’s interview, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel would stand alone if necessary.

In the US, House Speaker Mike Johnson expressed his feeling of betrayal over Biden’s decision to delay the weapons shipment to Israel. Speaker Johnson claimed Biden had reneged on a commitment made last month when the House passed legislation securing military aid to Israel, Taiwan, and Ukraine. He stated that commitments were made by the Biden Administration, both verbally and in writing, affirming there would be no delay in weapon shipments.

President Biden’s decision to delay the weapons shipment to Israel is not the first time the US and Israel have been at odds. Under President Barack Obama, the US abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution that demanded an end to Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. President Ronald Reagan suspended the delivery of F-16s and supported UNSC Resolution 487 after Israel bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq. Reagan also demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin cease attacks on Lebanon in August 1982. During the conflict, Reagan stated that he had lost patience with Israel, which remained defiant until its forces finally withdrew in June 1985.

It appears that Netanyahu’s government is determined to invade Rafah despite risking its reputation and relationships with historically friendly countries. While Netanyahu and his allies are adamant about the invasion, it could also be a form of brinkmanship intended to gain leverage in negotiations with Hamas. This tactic becomes increasingly relevant as Israel believes Hamas will become less flexible during negotiations if the group perceives increased US pressure on the Netanyahu government.

The Israel-Hamas conflict is proving difficult for all parties involved, and the defense industry must monitor the situation closely. We can regard the Israel-Hamas conflict as a low point in US-Israel relations as the Biden administration navigates both domestic and international pressures regarding Israel’s conduct. To improve his standing among aggrieved voters, President Biden must follow through with his threats to halt weapon shipments to Israel if it chooses to cross his red line and invade Rafah. To salvage the US’s reputation in the Middle East and internationally, the Biden administration will continue to pressure Israel to negotiate a ceasefire. At the same time, it must be acknowledged that Israel is a Major Non-NATO Ally. Hezbollah continues to launch drones and rockets at Israeli targets, and Iran-backed militias in Iraq are doing the same. Hamas rocket attacks continue, and the threat from Iran persists. Limiting or halting weapons shipments to Israel could place the country in an extremely vulnerable position and weaken its national security.

Israel and the US have had major disagreements before, but repairing these relations is not guaranteed. While US-Israel relations improved after President Reagan’s dissatisfaction, we cannot assume it will happen again. We do not know how the Biden administration will respond should Israel cross Biden’s red line. If he follows through with his threats, weapon shipments will stop, but sanctions could also be on the table. If Israel persists with its invasion, this could be a possibility since the US has already imposed sanctions on Israeli settlers. This would place the defense industry in a tough position as companies have acquisition contracts and joint ventures involving Israel and its defense companies. Domestically, the defense industry is already facing challenges as activists demand universities divest from Israel, which could include ending partnerships with defense companies.

Initial reports claim that CIA Director Bill Burns is heading back to the US and that a deal was not reached. If these reports are true, we must prepare for the consequences of a Rafah invasion, which may be inevitable. President Biden may follow through with his threats and end weapon shipments to Israel if this invasion occurs. The defense industry will suffer in this case and could see further negative impacts should they have, or ever had, relations with Israel. While these relations, whether they be through acquisition contracts, partnerships, or joint ventures, are extremely profitable, there may be limits to what those outside the defense industry will tolerate.