President Donald Trump said last night that the US is moving forward with a deal to sell F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of the normalization deal between the UAE and Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied time and again that he has given his consent to such a deal, although the US is not dependent on Israeli approval to sell the planes. At the same time, in order to persuade the UAE to sign a peace agreement with Israel, the US would have had to promise Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, procurement of advanced weaponry.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the region looking to buy advanced weaponry will likely receive the same answer from the US that they need to normalize relations with Israel. However, defense sources in Israel are greatly disturbed by such developments because they fear that Israel will lose its qualitative edge in the military sector in the region, even if such sales are accompanied by the signing of peace agreements.
At a press conference in Washington yesterday, Trump said that the UAE was interested in buying the Lockheed Martin F-35, a fighter jet already in service with the Israel Air Force. "They'd like to buy the F-35, it's under review, we'll see what happens. They have the money to pay," said Trump.
Trump proudly added that the F-35 is the best aircraft in the world. "It's invisible. Completely invisible. I asked a pilot what do you think is the best? I spoke about a Russian plane, a Chinese plane. He said that the advantage that we have is that they cannot see the plane. I said that that sounds like an advantage that's really big. These pilots that I meet look better than Tom Cruise and they are certainly tougher."
Netanyahu has repreated that he is against any deal to sell F-35s to the UAE. "There is fake news around the agreement with the UAE," Netanyahu said in response to a report in 'Yediot Ahrononot' that he agreed to the sale of the F-35s to the UAE and that he felt that not only would it not damage Israel's security, it would contribute to it. Netanyahu said, "There is no agreement from me or any sort of agreement about the sale of US weapons to the UAE. Not openly, not secretly, not written, not written on the side, it's all fake news.
If Israel were to remain resolutely oppose to the sale of F-35s to the UAE, then it is conceivable that Israel's friends in the US Congress could block the deal. The US media reports that Trump's son-in-law and Middle East envoy Jared Kushnir brokered the deal for the UAE to buy F-35s.
Even if any deal were to go ahead it would take years before the F-35s were delivered to the UAE. Poland is acquiring 32 F-35s and won't receive them until 2024.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 20, 2020 © Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020