The Israelis first requested the bunker busters in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the Bush administration. At the time, the Pentagon had frozen almost all U.S.-Israeli joint defense projects out of concern that Israel was transferring advanced military technology to China.
In 2007, Bush informed Ehud Olmert, then prime minister, that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010. The Israelis wanted them in 2007. Obama finally released the weapons in 2009, according to officials familiar with the still-secret decision.
This passage is virtually verbatim from a Jerusalem Post report from September 2010, which cited (but did not directly quote) Newsweek:
Israel first put in a request for the bunker busters in 2005, but it was rebuffed by the Bush administration.
In 2007, Bush informed former prime minister Ehud Olmert that he would order the bunker busters for delivery in 2009 or 2010, according to the magazine.
**UPDATE** The link above is to a Jerusalem Post report from 23 September 2011, which is apparently quoting Eli Lake’s report rather than vice-versa. A fellow blogger notified me of the discrepancy, and I have determined that I presented the link in the above context in error. My apologies for that. For reporting integrity, I will leave the original as-is with this correction included. The NYT, UK Telegraph, and World Tribune reporting linked below remain unchanged and indicate that the first delivery of GBU-28s to Israel occurred in 2006.
But according to the New York Times (among other sources), the first GBU-28s were delivered to Israel in 2006:
The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday. ….
An announcement in 2005 that Israel was eligible to buy the “bunker buster” weapons described the GBU-28 as “a special weapon that was developed for penetrating hardened command centers located deep underground.” The document added, “The Israeli Air Force will use these GBU-28’s on their F-15 aircraft.”
American officials said that once a weapons purchase is approved, it is up to the buyer nation to set up a timetable. But one American official said normal procedures usually do not include rushing deliveries within days of a request. That was done because Israel is a close ally in the midst of hostilities, the official said.
Numerous other media sources discussed the GBU-28 sale at the time it was being negotiated and approved. (See here, here, and here to get you started.) The Pentagon proposed the sale to Congress in 2005, with – quite obviously – the full approval of the White House. Media reported on some of the original deliveries in 2006, which went through Scotland’s Prestwick Airport in July of that year.
There was a January 2009 report of the Bush administration rebuffing a bunker-buster sale to Israel, but the GBU-28 sale was already concluded and underway. The Bush administration was reluctant, in 2008, to sell Israel another weapon, the GBU-39 small-diameter penetrator. But as Haaretz reported in September 2008, the Bush administration did eventually decide to sell Israel the GBU-39 (readable summary on the GBU-39 here; DOD notice of proposal for foreign military sale here). Haaretz’s reference to initial reluctance and delay on the sale appears to accord with the January 2009 report that the Bush administration had denied a bunker-buster sale to Israel in the previous year.
There are two heavyweight US bunker-busters often discussed by the public as bombs that Israel ought to have: the GBU-43, the 21,000-pounder (18,000 pounds of explosive) known as the “Mother of All Bombs,” or MOAB, and the MOP – Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or GBU-57 – which weighs in at 30,000 pounds. Israel doesn’t have delivery platforms for these enormous warheads, however. In the US Air Force, only the B-2 and B-52 can deliver them. They would not figure in arms-sale dramas with Israel.
(For comparison, the GBU-28 has a 5000-lb warhead, and the GBU-39 a 250-pound one. Both bombs can be delivered by tactical strike-fighters; e.g., F-15, F-16, F/A-18. A key advantage of the GBU-39 is that four of them can be carried in place of one 2000-lb bomb, allowing the servicing of multiple aimpoints with a penetrating weapon, or the sequenced servicing of one, on a single bombing mission.)
Has Mr. Lake misstated the defense nomenclature for what Obama “approved” for sale to Israel in 2009? Did Obama approve the sale of a new weapon, beyond the GBU-28 and the GBU-39? Or did he merely allow more GBU-28s to be delivered to Israel? If it was the latter, the implication that Bush had blocked the sale or delivery of those weapons between 2005 and 2009, and that no GBU-28s were delivered until 2009, is contradicted by the evidence of earlier reporting.