A pair of lawmakers is readying legislation that would pave the way for the U.S. to provide Israel with bunker-busting bombs that could strike Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.
The legislation, offered by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Brian Mast (R-Fla.), would make it possible to transfer the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator to Israel as a defense against Iran if Tehran pursues nuclear weapons.
Gottheimer, on a conference call with reporters Tuesday, said the legislation would “shore up Israel’s qualitative military edge” in the Middle East.
The bill would require the Pentagon to consult with Israel and report to Congress on its ability to deter “a full range of threats” including whether the U.S. providing bunker-buster munitions would advance U.S. and Israeli security.
“There should be absolutely no doubt that our ally Israel must be prepared for every contingency if Iran seeks … a nuclear weapon,” Gottheimer said.
The news of the legislation was first reported by Jewish Insider.
The move from Gottheimer and Mast comes as lawmakers in both parties have expressed concern over the potential sale of F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates, which agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel last month. Lawmakers have sought to pump the brakes on a deal for the advanced fighter out of concern it would undermine a U.S. guarantee that Israel possesses the best military hardware in the Middle East.
But Israel has since agreed to permit the U.S. to sell “certain weapons” to the UAE — likely opening the door to an F-35 sale — after Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz struck a deal last week to permit weapons transfers to proceed in exchange for a U.S. commitment that Israel would be able to upgrade its own capabilities.
Whether to outfit Israel with the bunker-buster bombs has been a subject of debate in recent years. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran flared in the region after the Trump administration withdrew from an agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program and a series of provocations in the Middle East, including the assassination of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani and a retaliatory missile strike by Iran against bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq.