The Trump administration and the United Arab Emirates hope to reach a preliminary agreement on the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Abu Dhabi by early December, according to a Reuters news agency report citing administration officials on Tuesday.
The prospective sale of stealth F-35 fighter jets to Abu Dhabi has been one of the controversial side issues of the Israel-UAE accord.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly denied reports the deal was premised on the sale of F-35s to the UAE, saying he opposes a move that could reduce Israel’s military advantage.
The growing rumours of the sale have prompted angry reactions in Israel.
In private, Netanyahu said yes to the U.S. selling stealth fighters to UAE; in public, he’s opposing it. His mixed messages, and opaque motivations, will intensify the upcoming controversy between Trump, pushing for a deal, and Congress. LINK
The Congress is likely to oppose the deal. At the same time as they are discussing the deal, US officials have said they remain committed to Israel’s security and are looking for a way to structure a deal that would allow Israel to keep its military edge over all other countries in the region.
According to the report, the two sides aim to draft up a letter of agreement in time for UAE National Day celebrated on December 2. According to the Reuters report:
Any deal must satisfy decades of agreement with Israel that states any U.S. weapons sold to the region must not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge,” guaranteeing U.S. weapons furnished to Israel are “superior in capability” to those sold to its neighbors.
With that in mind Washington is studying ways to make the Lockheed Martin corp F-35 more visible to Israeli radar systems, two sources said. Reuters could not determine if this would be done by changing the jet or providing Israel with better radar, among other possibilities.
The report, citing a congressional staffer and a source familiar with previous sales, said the Pentagon does not allow any F-35 sold to foreign governments to match the performance capabilities of US jets.
During a visit to Jerusalem last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reassured Israel that his country would continue to preserve that edge while allowing the UAE to defend itself against threats from Iran.
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz is currently in Washington to discuss the possible F-35 sale. LINK
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