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August 18, 2020 7:08 am

Israel Opposes Any F-35 Sale to UAE Despite Their Warming Ties

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of an F-35 stealth fighter at the IAF’s Nevatim base, July 9, 2019. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO.

Israel would oppose any US F-35 warplane sales to the United Arab Emirates despite forging relations with the Gulf power, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, citing a need to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region.

The statement followed a report in Israel‘s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the Trump administration planned a “giant” F-35 deal with the UAE as part of the Gulf country’s US-brokered move last week to normalize ties with Israel.

The US Embassy in Jerusalem and representatives of the UAE government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under understandings dating back decades, Washington has refrained from Middle East arms sales that could blunt Israel‘s “qualitative military edge” (QME). This has applied to the F-35, denied to Arab states, while Israel has bought and deployed it.

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“In the talks (on the UAE normalization deal), Israel did not change its consistent positions against the sale to any country in the Middle East of weapons and defense technologies that could tip the (military) balance,” Netanyahu’s office said.

This opposition includes any proposed F-35 sale, it added.

The Trump administration has signaled that the UAE could clinch unspecified new US arms sales after last Thursday’s normalization announcement.

Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, an observer in Netanyahu’s security cabinet, noted that past US administrations had “against our wishes” sold the UAE more advanced F-16 warplanes than Israel possesses as well as F-15 warplanes to Saudi Arabia.

Even were Washington to sell F-35s to the UAE, Steinitz told public radio station Kan that they would be unlikely to pose a danger to Israel as the distance between the countries is more than twice the jet’s range without refueling.

“I would like to offer us reassurance. Any F-35 that ends up, ultimately, in the United Arab Emirates — not that we would be happy with this, as we always want to be the only ones (with such arms) in the region — threatens Iran far more than it does us,” he said, citing a foe common to Israel and many Gulf Arab states.

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