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October 23, 2020 1:54 pm

Israel Won’t Oppose US Sale of F-35 to UAE

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 will not oppose US sales of “specific weapons systems” to the United Arab Emirates, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Friday, in an apparent reference to the F-35 warplanes sought by Abu Dhabi.

Under a principle of preserving Israel‘s “qualitative military edge,” the United States consults with it on proposed sales of advanced arms to other countries in the region.

Israel has reiterated a need to maintain its military superiority even since forging official ties with the UAE and its fellow Gulf Arab state Bahrain under deals brokered by US President Donald Trump last month.

Washington agreed to consider allowing the UAE to buy F-35 stealth jets in a side deal to a normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE.

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Gantz reached agreements in Washington this week with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper that he and Netanyahu, in a joint statement, said would significantly upgrade Israel‘s military capabilities.

“Since the US is upgrading Israel’s military capability and is maintaining Israel‘s qualitative military edge, Israel will not oppose the sale of these systems to the UAE,” they said.

The Israeli statement did not mention the F-35 explicitly.

But it added that the Trump administration had informed Israel — which uses the F-35 — of its plan to notify Congress that it intends to provide certain weapons systems to the UAE.

The removal of Israeli opposition clears one important hurdle to US congressional approval of F-35 sales to the UAE.

Israel enjoys broad support in Congress and if Israel stood in the way of the deals it would be nearly impossible for them to advance.

The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, whose members have criticized the UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review and block weapons sales under an informal review process.

US lawmakers have tried to rein in the Trump administration’s plans for arms sales to UAE and Saudi Arabia over concerns over their involvement in the war in Yemen.

Past measures to block arms sales passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support, but failed to get enough Republican backing to override Trump’s vetoes.

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