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Netanyahu and Trump at the White House. Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

The Trump administration is blocking a $500 million arms deal between Israel and Croatia, for the sale of 12 U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets refurbished and upgraded by Israel, Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The U.S. was also fighting for the Croatia tender, and U.S. officials claimed Israel was being dishonest and trying to profit off the back of the U.S., according to the Israeli officials. This is a very rare standoff after two years of incredibly close relations between Israel and the Trump administration, especially when it comes to military and defense cooperation.

The latest: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu raised the issue with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during their meeting in Brussels on Monday, according to Israeli officials who said Pompeo told Netanyahu he was not against the deal but Secretary of Defense James Mattis was blocking it.

How things broke down ...

Netanyahu announced the deal last March after a meeting with his Croatian counterpart, but the U.S. didn't give Israel the approval needed to sell the jets to a third party. Israeli officials tell me they started receiving messages from Washington three weeks ago indicating that the U.S. would block the deal.

  • Trump administration officials were furious that Israel upgraded the old F-16's with new and sophisticated Israeli-made electronic systems in order persuade the Croatians to buy the jets from Israel and not from the U.S., the Israeli officials tell me.
  • The Americans claimed Israel was never supposed to sell the U.S.-made jets to a third party without U.S. approval — especially not in direct competition with the U.S.
  • Israeli officials tell me the Croatians are also furious that the deal is stuck and have conveyed a message to Israel that they expect it solve the problem as soon as possible. 

Netanyahu's office did not deny this account but refrained from commenting. The State Department declined to comment on the issue, and the Pentagon hasn't provided a comment.

Go deeper

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Winter view from Charlotte as winter storm Izzy creates dangerous conditions in Charlotte, N.C. on Jan. 16. Photo: Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A major winter storm was lashing much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The big picture: Heavy snow and ice accumulations are "likely to produce hazardous travel," downed trees and more power outages from the Mid-South to the Northeast, per the National Weather Service. Some parts of the U.S. can expect to see up to a foot of snow through Monday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

2 hours ago - World

North Korea launches 4th suspected missile test this month

A news broadcast in Seoul, South Korea, of an apparent North Korean missile test on Monday morning local time. Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea's military fired "two suspected short-range ballistic missiles" eastward from Pyongyang on Monday morning local time, per South Korean and Japanese officials.

Why it matters: The fourth such launch since Jan. 5 comes days after North Korea's military warned of "stronger" action if the U.S. moved to have more sanctions imposed on the country.