The United States has blocked the Israeli regime’s sale of 12 used F-16 jet fighters to Croatia in a deal worth $500 million over demands that Tel Aviv removes electronic modifications it has made to the war planes.
“Israel has officially informed us that it cannot get an approval from the United States for delivery of the planes to Croatia,” Croatia’s Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic announced in a Thursday press conference in the capital Zagreb following a meeting with a visiting Israeli delegation.
According to Croatian media reports, the problem came up because the war planes had been refitted with Israeli technology, depriving American weapons makers the opportunity to update and service the decades-old fighter jets.
The US reportedly insisted that the Israeli regime must strip the jets of the upgrades it had made — including electronic and radar systems – prior to transferring the aircraft.
Croatia, however, declined to purchase the planes without the Israeli modifications, declaring that it will cancel the order for the F-16 Barak combat aircraft, which were to replace the NATO member’s aging fleet of Soviet MiG21 jetfighters.
“Israel failed to overcome the opposition of the United States to the sale of 12 planes to Croatia, and the $500 million deal will apparently be canceled,” the Croatian Defense Ministry emphasized in a statement.
“Unfortunately, we have not been able to realize the deal because of problems that could not have been expected and are not under the control of the countries,” said the chief of Israeli war ministry, Udi Adam, in the press briefing in Zagreb on Thursday.
Eager to sell the planes, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly even raised the issue with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during their meeting in Brazil earlier this month.
Despite all efforts, however, the State Department blocked the transfer of arms to the Balkan nation. It did not provide comments on the report because it was on furlough due to the persisting US government shutdown.
Moreover, a senior Israeli official told the US-based Axios news outlet that former Pentagon Chief James Mattis had rejected a personal request from Netanyahu to give the acquisition his personal approval.
Apart from the Israeli regime, several other countries also participated in the bidding process for the warplane deal, including Greece, South Korea and Sweden.
Meanwhile, Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic announced earlier this week that Zagreb would not accept any other deal except the original Israeli offer which it accepted last March.
“The agreement on buying the planes has not been signed, so there is no financial damage to our budget,” Plenkovic said during a cabinet session on Thursday.
He added, however, that Zagreb was determined to continue with its plans of modernizing its air force.