Israeli intelligence minister, Eli Cohen, reiterated in an interview on Sunday that Israel strongly opposes any US sale of the F-35 stealth fighter to other countries in the region, and further stated that Israel will ask the US not to sell F-35 fighter jets to Qatar in order to preserve its ‘qualitative military edge’.
During the interview, Cohen further pointed out that Israel works in partnership with the US so that both countries can preserve their own interests, and that Israel has halted arms sales in the past to accommodate US demands.
Asked on Army Radio if Israel will oppose the sale after Qatar submitted a request to purchase F-35s last week, he answered in the affirmative.
“As far as we’re concerned, security and our superiority in the region are the most significant things,” Cohen said. “For us, our region still hasn’t become Switzerland. Israel is the most threatened country, not only in the Middle East but in the whole world, and as such, we need to preserve our superiority.”
Qatar’s request follows the United Arab Emirates stepped up effort to acquire the advanced warplanes after normalization of ties with Israel. The Trump administration has indicated publicly that it is in favour of selling F-35s to the UAE despite Israeli opposition to the deal as a threat to its qualitative military edge which is guaranteed by US law.
The White House and State Department are required to give Congress their opinion as to whether any prospective US weapons sale in the Middle East would threaten Israel’s military advantage.
US officials have said they will find a way to complete the F-35 sale while also maintaining Israel’s edge.
Israel is currently the only Middle Eastern country to receive F-35s; it has ordered 50 and has an option to acquire another 25.
Although Qatar has been mentioned by some as a country that may be among those willing to declare official ties with Israel, and has had unofficial contacts for many years, it appears that the country’s leadership is not in a hurry to join the UAE and Bahrain in normalizing ties in the absence of a comprehensive peace agreement.
Qatar also hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East, where around 8,000 US military personnel are deployed. LINK
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