Israel will not oppose US sales of “specific weapons systems” to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz said, in an apparent reference to the high-tech 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 since forging official ties with the UAE and fellow Gulf Arab state Bahrain under deals brokered by US President Donald Trump.
Washington agreed to consider allowing the UAE to buy F-35 stealth jets in a side deal to the normalisation agreement between Israel and the Emirates.
Gantz reached agreements in Washington this week with US defence chief Mark Esper that he and Netanyahu 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 on Friday.
“We’ve never had a dispute with UAE; they’ve always been on our side. And that process is moving along – I think hopefully rapidly,” Trump said. He was speaking in the White House Oval Office after announcing that Sudan would be the next country in the region to forge ties with Israel.
Israel and Middle East
The UAE agreed to normalize relations with Israel earlier this year, bringing longstanding covert ties into the open in a deal hailed by the U.S. and Israel as an historic breakthrough in Middle East diplomacy. Bahrain also recently signed a similar normalization agreement with Israel, and Sudan agreed to normalize ties with the Jewish state earlier on Friday. Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel decades ago.
Israeli opposition would have been fatal to the deal in the U.S. Congress, where Israel enjoys strong support. Lawmakers have raised questions not only about how Israel’s military edge would be protected, as U.S. policy has long dictated, but whether UAE’s defense relations with Russia and China to would jeopardize the advanced and stealthy warplane. Two key Democrats have introduced legislation this week placing restrictions on F-35 sales to Mideastern nations to address those concerns.
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