Israel signals it will not oppose sale of F-35 warplanes to UAE

“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.
Saturday 24/10/2020
US soldiers stand next to an F-35A Lightning II stationed at the Emirati Al-Dhafra base, about 32 kilometres south of Abu Dhabi, last September. (AFP)
US soldiers stand next to an F-35A Lightning II stationed at the Emirati Al-Dhafra base, about 32 kilometres south of Abu Dhabi, last September. (AFP)

WASHINGTON –Israel said on Friday it will not oppose US sales of “specific weapons systems” to the United Arab Emirates, 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 Arab Gulf 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 normalisation agreement between Israel and the UAE.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz reached agreements in Washington this week with US Defence Secretary Mark Esper that he and Prime Minister Binyamin 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 statement from Israel – which uses the F-35 – did not mention the jet explicitly.

Asked about potential F-35 sales to the UAE, Trump said the “process is moving along.”

“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 has already received a first consignment of F-35s, which are coveted by Gulf powers including 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 it opposed the deals it would be nearly impossible for lawmakers to advance.

The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees have the right to review and block weapons sales.

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.