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(CNN) --

The Biden administration is set to approve the sale to Israel of up to 50 American-made F-15 fighter jets, in a deal that is expected to exceed $18 billion, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The transaction, which would mark the largest US foreign military sale to Israel since the country went to war with Hamas on October 7, comes at a time when the Administration is also expected to soon report to Congress. a large new sale of precision-guided munition kits to Israel, the people said.

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The new sales of some of the most sophisticated US weapons highlight the extent to which the US continues to support Israel militarily, even as Biden administration officials criticize Israel's operations in Gaza, which have killed to more than 32,000 Palestinians since October, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

The sale is likely to be hotly debated in Congress, especially among members of the president's own party. U.S. arms sales to Israel have come under intense scrutiny in recent months, and Democratic lawmakers have called for restricting military aid to Israel until it allows more humanitarian aid into Gaza and does more to protect Palestinians. civilians in the area.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel in October, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis, the United States has made more than 100 sales of military hardware to Israel. Most of them have not exceeded the specific dollar amount that requires notification to Congress, an official familiar with the matter previously told CNN.


But the $18 billion F-15 sale is significant enough to require notification to Congress, and the administration informally notified the House Foreign Affairs and U.S. Foreign Affairs committees. Senate the sale of the F-15 at the end of January, according to two of the people familiar with the matter.

The informal notification gives lawmakers and congressional staff time to review details and ask questions before the State Department sends a formal notification to all lawmakers.

Senator James Risch, the top Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has already approved the sale, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. A congressional aide told CNN that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul also approved moving the transaction to formal congressional notification.

But Sen. Ben Cardin, the committee's Democratic chairman, as well as the ranking Democratic member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Greg Meeks, can still stop the sale if they raise objections.

If there are no objections, the State Department will send a formal notification to all legislators, who will then have 30 days to block the sale through a joint resolution of disapproval. According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress has never been able to block an arms sale through a resolution of this type, which must be approved by both chambers.

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Democrats are also increasingly concerned about the Biden administration's continued practice of sharing intelligence information with Israel, which was expanded by order of President Joe Biden following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Some of that intelligence support has been in the form of so-called raw intelligence that Israel is intended to use to locate hostages, but could also be used to identify Hamas targets, sources told CNN. Hamas fighters often intermingle in civilian areas, some officials have said.

Meanwhile, a growing number of American diplomats are frustrated by the administration's reluctance to use its influence over Israel to change its approach to the ongoing war.

"What you hear about frustrations within the administration over Israel policy is real," a US diplomat told CNN on condition of anonymity. "We are being asked to act in a way that ignores what we are seeing on the ground."

Diplomats also told CNN they were frustrated by the administration's attempts to downplay the US abstention in a UN vote last week on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. What could have been a bold message to Israel was diluted by the United States' insistence that the resolution was non-binding and consistent with existing US policy, these diplomats said.

These disgruntled diplomats said they would like the U.S. to threaten future arms sales to Israel to help stem the bloody fighting, but proposed sales of F-15s and precision-guided munitions indicate the administration has no plans to restrict the short-term military aid.

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F-15s will not be delivered immediately

Unlike precision-guided munitions, the new F-15s would have to be built from scratch and would likely not be delivered to Israel for another 4 or 5 years.

Israeli officials have urged the US to speed up the deadlines if possible, CNN previously reported.

In addition to up to 50 aircraft, the package includes engines, weapons systems, radars and navigation systems for the planes, according to three of the sources. The package provides construction and contractor support and logistics infrastructure for fleet training, sustainment and maintenance, as well as a mid-life upgrade for Israel's current F-15 fleet.

A State Department spokesperson stated: "We cannot confirm potential or pending U.S. arms transfers before they are formally notified to Congress."

The Biden administration also quietly authorized a sale of F-35 fighter jets to Israel last week, the sources said. That sale did not require notification to Congress because the planned sale had been notified to Congress in 2008.

The State Department spokesperson said that "as a practical matter, major acquisitions, such as Israel's F-35 program, for example, are often divided into several cases over many years."

Sources told CNN it was unclear why the Biden administration would approve such a large sale now, during an election year in which the president's Israel policy is under scrutiny. The sale is not particularly urgent, given that Israel will not receive the planes for a few years.

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Josh Paul, who worked in the State Department's Bureau of Political-Military Affairs for more than a decade before resigning in October over continued U.S. arms transfers to Israel, said the U.S. clearly thinks that Israel needs the equipment "for its long-term defense."

"But there is a feeling on Israel's part that right now the doors are wide open for whatever they want, so this is the time to ask for it," he said. "Who knows how long the barn doors will be open?"

The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment on the proposed sales.

"The United States has a decades-long commitment to Israel's security," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Monday. "Israel is surrounded by entities that have sworn its destruction, not only Hamas, but Iran and subsidiary groups that Iran sponsors, Hezbollah among them, who have repeatedly spoken of their desire for Israel's destruction. We believe that Israel has every right to defend against those adversaries."

Growing concern over intelligence sharing with the United States

When it comes to intelligence sharing with Israel, the United States has offered the Israeli government a significant amount of processing capacity, according to two sources familiar with the matter - essentially, computing power that allows Israel to sift through massive amounts of interceptions, images and other raw intelligence to extract meaningful trends or insights.

In theory, the intelligence community is not allowed to share with its partners information that could be used to violate the international law of armed conflict, and US officials insist that they are not providing Israel with what is known as "targeting intelligence." "; in this case, intelligence used to precisely target Hamas fighters or positions.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder stated in November that the U.S. military "is not involved in developing IDF targets" and that its involvement is solely to help find the hostages.

But several sources familiar with US exchange efforts who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity said that is a distinction without a difference. Once the US provides an intelligence tip to Israel, it has no control over how Israel combines it with other information, and there is nothing stopping Israel from using that information to attack Hamas operatives, the sources said.

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"Israel ensures that operations using US intelligence information are carried out in accordance with international law, including the Law of Armed Conflict, which requires the protection of civilians," a senior intelligence official told CNN. in response to questions about information sharing.

Intelligence has continued to flow, the sources said, even as the Biden administration has been pressing Israel to do more to avoid civilian casualties.

"In the absence of stronger oversight, it is impossible to discern how allies and partners are using U.S. intelligence in military operations," wrote Steven Katz, an active-duty Army officer currently working as a civilian in the Office of the Secretary. of Defense, in an article published on the national security blog Just Security, in which he advocates for greater oversight of intelligence sharing by Congress.

"In some cases, the IC may be providing indirect support through intelligence sharing to partner operations conducted in a manner inconsistent with US law and policy," he said.

According to Katz, the State Department has a procedure to investigate reports of civilian deaths caused by US weapons used by other countries, but there is no law requiring the intelligence community to track how the exchange US intelligence may contribute to civilian deaths.

A provision of an annual intelligence bill currently before Congress would require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to submit an annual report to Congress detailing civilian casualties caused by foreign government operations in which intelligence shared by United States United States has played a "significant role. But that bill has not yet been approved.

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