In a new arms deal reached on Monday, the United States has agreed to sell Israel mid-air refueling tankers. The sale of such tankers, which will make it possible for Israeli planes to reach Iran, was refused by the Bush administration.

The arms deal, which also included specialized missiles for demolishing air defense systems, was praised in public by Defense Secretaries Chuck Hagel and Moshe Yaalon – both of whom mentioned the importance of curtailing Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

The Obama administration, however, refused to sell Israel bunker-busting bombs that could penetrate some of Iran’s deeply-embedded nuclear sites.

Per The New York Times:

The new weapons sale package includes aircraft for midair refueling and missiles that can cripple an adversary’s air defense system. Both would be critical for Israel if it were to decide on a unilateral attack on Iran.

But what the Israelis wanted most was a weapons system that is missing from the package: a giant bunker-busting bomb designed to penetrate earth and reinforced concrete to destroy deeply buried sites. According to both American and Israeli analysts, it is the only weapon that would have a chance of destroying the Iranian nuclear fuel enrichment center at Fordow, which is buried more than 200 feet under a mountain outside the holy city of Qum.

While the arms deal contains what The New York Times described as a “mixed message” regarding an Israeli strike on Iran, one thing is certain: as a result of the deal, Israel will have an increased logistical capacity to strike Iran if it so chooses.

With this increased capacity came Hagel’s strongest statement to date on Iran with Israel in mind:

“Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Hagel said. “Period.”

It’s clear that the Obama administration is bending with regard to an Israeli strike on Iran. Time will tell how far the U.S. is willing to bend as Israel continues to press for such a strike.

Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG

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