Joe Biden's administration has requested Israel to transfer old American Hawk anti-aircraft missiles in its custody to Ukraine, Axios reported, citing Israeli and U.S. officials.
So far, Israel has rejected most U.S. and Ukrainian requests to provide Ukraine with advanced and defensive weapons because of fears that such a move could create tensions with Russia and harm Israel's security interests in Syria.
Russia has enormous influence in Syria, but allows Israel to operate freely there against Iranian activities.
Israel acquired the Hawk system from the United States in the 1960s to defend against Egyptian and Syrian airstrikes.
At the time, the Raytheon-developed anti-aircraft system was considered advanced technology. But in recent years, Israel has favored other systems, including the U.S. Patriot battery and its own Iron Dome and Arrow defense systems.
Ten years ago, the Israeli military withdrew the Hawk system from service. A senior Israeli official told Axios that about 10 Hawk batteries and hundreds of interceptors remain in storage in Israel.
Senior Israeli and U.S. officials said the Pentagon contacted the Israeli Defense Ministry two weeks ago and requested the Hawk systems in storage for transfer to Ukraine.
A U.S. official said similar requests had been sent to several other countries where the system was in service or in storage.
A senior Israeli official said that the Israeli Defense Ministry spokesperson had told his U.S. counterparts that Israel's policy not to transfer the weapon systems to Ukraine had not changed. According to the Israeli official, the defense official said the Israeli Hawk systems were "outdated" and could not function because they had been in storage for so long without maintenance.
But Israeli officials say the answer was inaccurate. They stressed that while the launchers may be completely malfunctioning, the hundreds of Hawk interceptors that are in Israel can be repaired and used.
The Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed to Axios that "the position of the Israeli security establishment [on providing military assistance to Ukraine] has not changed. Each request is considered on a case-by-case basis."
Earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin gave a speech at the AIPAC leadership conference in Washington in which he hinted at the U.S. request for Hawk missiles from Israel. But his remarks went almost unnoticed.
In his remarks, Austin mentioned how Hawk systems helped Israel defend itself in the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Doomsday War, also known as the October War. Now Hawk are no longer state-of-the-art technology. But they can still help a beleaguered democracy defend itself, Austin said. He added that the U.S. is working with its allies and partners to provide Hawk capabilities to Ukraine.