Israel will oppose any attempts by the United States to sell F-35 warplanes to the United Arab Emirates, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday, despite the recent forging of official diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Netanyahu’s office confirmed the government’s opposition in a statement on Tuesday, citing the need for Israel to maintain its military superiority in the Middle East.
“The historic peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates did not include Israel’s consent to any arms deal whatsoever between the United States and the UAE,” the statement read. “From the outset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed the sale of F-35s and other advanced weaponry to any country in the Middle East, including Arab countries that have peace agreements with the State of Israel.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly expressed this position to the American administration and it has not changed,” the statement continued. “The consistent opposition to the sale of F-35s was reiterated on 2 June 2020 by the head of the National Security Council, who spoke with GOC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, at the request of Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
The statement came in response to a report in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the Trump administration is planning a “giant” F-35 deal with the UAE after Washington successfully brokered last week’s move to normalize ties with Israel.
During a meeting last month with the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, Netanyahu affirmed he been “explicit in Israel’s opposition to the sale of F-35s and other advanced weaponry to any country in the Middle East, including those with peace agreements with Israel,” adding that the country’s “position remains unchanged even following the reaching of peace agreements.”
Meanwhile, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is also part of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, noted that past U.S. administrations sold warplanes to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia “against our wishes,” thus undermining a long-held understanding that the U.S. would not undermine Israel’s military advantage in the region.
However, Steinitz told the Israeli radio station, Kan, that the proposed F-35 sale with the UAE ultimately threatened Iran more than Israel as the distance between the countries is double the jet’s range.
“I would like to offer us reassurance,” he said. “Any F-35 that ends up, ultimately, in the United Arab Emirates – not that we would be happy with this, as we always want to be the only ones (with such arms) in the region – threatens Iran far more than it does us.”