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Furious US kills Israeli-Croatia half a billion F-16 deal

F-16 jet | Maxpixel

Tel Aviv has made the US furious over an F-16 jets deal, with the intention to sell the originally US-made war planes to Croatia. According to Sputnik news, Zagreb and Tel Aviv announced their intention to strike a deal on the sale of modified US-made F-16 jets this March, which made officials in Washington angry at Israel for going behind their backs and challenging their sellers.

As the source reported, US Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is set to leave his post by 1 January, blocked the $500 million deal for the sale of 12 F-16 fighters. The jets were originally manufactured by the US Corporation Lockheed Martin, and Israel, which marketed the upgraded jets needed Washington’s approval for selling them to a third party.

Sputnik news quoted Israeli journalist Barak Ravid as saying that the US demanded that Israel uninstall its modifications, which it had added to the jets prior to selling them to Croatia, while the latter reportedly refused to buy the un-modified F-16s.

Ravid cited an unnamed Israeli official who claimed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the outgoing defense secretary in mid-December, before Mattis’ resignation was announced, and tried to talk him into softening the US stance on the deal. The cited official was quoted by the journalist as saying that they can do nothing more than "apologize to Croatia for the deal falling apart and move on".

“For reasons we don’t fully understand, the Americans hardened their conditions and, apparently, we misread their position on the deal. Practically, the F-16 deal with Croatia is dead and we don't think it is possible to get an agreement that will reconcile the US conditions and the Croatian demands in the tender", the official reportedly told the journalist.

Earlier reports suggested that the US indicated its intention to block the deal in November. Netanyahu reportedly tried to win Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s support for the sale during their negotiations at the beginning of December. "I'm in favor, but Defense Secretary [James] Mattis is against [the sale] — it's him who is blocking it," Pompeo said, as quoted by The Times of Israel.

White House officials were “furious” that Israel had installed its electronic systems in the F-16s and was trying to steal clients and profit at the expense of the US, the journalist wrote.

Earlier in beginning of December, sources had reported that "The US government has given permission to the State of Israel to offer the Israeli F-16 to Croatia, and we have a document to that effect," Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krstičević said Friday.

The Israeli cabinet and the Pentagon, along with the State Department, have not yet commented on the matter.