Israel has not softened its opposition to any American arms sales to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that could diminish its military superiority as part of a US-brokered normalisation of their ties, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday.
The statement followed a report in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the Trump administration planned a “giant” sale of advanced F-35 jets to the UAE as part of the Gulf country’s move last week to normalise ties with Israel.
Under understandings dating back decades, Washington has refrained from Middle East arms sales that could blunt Israel’s “qualitative military edge”. This has applied to the F-35, denied to Arab states, while Israel has bought and deployed it.
“In the talks [on the UAE normalisation deal], Israel did not change its consistent positions against the sale to any country in the Middle East of weapons and defence technologies that could tip the [military] balance,” Netanyahu’s office said.
The US embassy in Jerusalem and representatives of the UAE government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
‘No policy change’
Eli Cohen, Israel’s intelligence minister, also said on Tuesday he knew of no change to the policy opposing US sales of advanced weaponry to Arab states.
He declined to be drawn on the UAE, which is currently unable to buy the F-35 – but which the US administration has said could clinch unspecified new American arms sales after Thursday’s normalisation announcement.
“I know of no change to the position and the policy of the state of Israel,” Cohen told public broadcaster Kan. “I am telling you that Israel has not given its consent to coming along and changing the arrangement.”
Several sources told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz they were concerned Netanyahu may have abandoned Israel’s vehement opposition to the sale of military equipment and technology to the UAE, particularly the F-35 advanced fighter jet.
A previous plan for the sale of American F-35 jets to the UAE was blocked by the US Congress under pressure from the Israel lobby in Washington, reported Haaretz.