US to sell F-35 jets to UAE as part of Israel deal

F-35

A senior Israeli source has told "Globes" that the US will sell the fighter aircraft to the UAE despite Israel's opposition.

The sale of advanced US and Israeli defense technology to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an important part of the Israel-UAE peace deal which has been hammered out. The icing on the cake for the UAE would be if it can acquire Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth jets, which the US only sells to a few carefully selected allies including Israel. The US recently cancelled a deal to sell F-35s to Turkey.

A senior Israeli defense source has confirmed that the US will sell F-35s to the UAE and say that such a sale would benefit Israel. The F-35 would be in the hands of a friendly state with identical interests and in close proximity to Iran. The source would not confirm whether Israel has actually agreed to this dramatic development, although officially Israel remains opposed. In 1995, the then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin acceded to US President Bill Clinton's request to sell F-16 fighter jets - at that time the most advanced combat aircraft available - to the UAE.

Interviewed by US National Public Radio US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that the move by the UAE to becoming a regional ally of the US, which change the threat assessment about it and help in all matters regarding future weapons deals. He hinted that Israel's position on the matter was of major importance.

An additional dimension on the issue is the US desire to push out the Russians and Chinese as arms seller in the Persian Gulf. The UAE has for some time made its procurement needs known but Washington has hesitated on advanced weaponry like the F-35 because of Israel's position. Russia has tried to fill the vacuum and has been offering its own fighter jets.

UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is himself a combat helicopter pilot who was trained by Britain's Royal Air Force and he is determined to strengthen the UAE's armed forces, especially the air force. This may well be a major reason why the UAE is eager to sign a peace agreement with Israel. Such an agreement would allow open cooperation between the UAE and Israel's defense industries, which would be able to significantly upgrade the UAE armed forces, as well as paving the way for them to buy the most advanced US and European weapons systems.

Israel's Prime Minister's Office insists that Israel has not agreed to the sale of F-35s to the UAE. "The historic peace agreement between Israel and the UAE does not include any agreement by Israel to any arms deals between the US and UAE. From the outset, the prime minister has opposed the sale of F-35s and other advanced weapons systems to countries in the Middle East, including Arab states that make peace with Israel."

The prime minister has expressed a consistent opinion on this time after time to the US administration and it hasn't changed. This consistent opposition to the sale of F-35 jets was voiced again on June 2 when the head of the National Security Council, spoke at the behest of the prime minister with the Israel Air Force commander Amikam Norkin."

"On July 7 the prime minister spoke with US Ambassador Friedman, and the prime minister explicitly expressed his opposition to the sale of F-35 aircraft and any other advanced weapons systems in the Middle East including as part of peace agreements. On July 8, the prime minister sent a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo through Ambassador Friedman clarifying Israel's position even following obtaining a peace agreement. Defense Minister Gantz was updated on this on July 29."

"On August 3, at the instructions of the prime minister, the Israeli Ambassador in Washington Ron Dermer met with Secretary of State Pompeo and repeated Israel's explicit opposition to the sale of F-35 and advanced weapons systems to any state in the Middle East. The peace agreement with the UAE does not include any clause on this, and the US made it clear to Israel that it will always strive to maintain Israel's qualitative edge."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on August 18, 2020 © Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

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