U.S. won’t sell refueling jets to Israel, fearing strike on Iran

It emerged on Wednesday that the United States has refused to sell Jerusalem new refueling planes, fearing such a transaction could be interpreted as support for an Israeli attack on Iran.

Haaretz reported last week that the U.S. had rejected a request for military equipment that would improve Israel’s ability to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Jerusalem denied that report.

But new information released Wednesday revealed that the nature of the equipment refused would strengthen the Israel Air Force in one of its weakest areas. The IAF has in its possession only seven refueling planes, many of which are more than 40 years old. Israel had requested new Boeing 767 planes, necessary for refueling during long-distance operations.

The Americans rejected the request roughly three weeks ago during a visit to Washington by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The refusal stems from the fear Israel plans to deliver a blow to Iran’s nuclear program before the end of the Bush Administration. Contrary to Iran’s claims that the program is for peaceful purposes, much of the West suspects Tehran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons.