In shift, Netanyahu approves US sale of F-35s to UAE

The move by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes after America reaffirmed its commitment to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and promises to upgrade its military capability.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement on Saturday announcing that after “precise evaluation by professional elements in the Defense Ministry, it was decided that Israel had no opposition to the supply of certain weapons systems to the [United Arab Emirates], when the matter is anchored in an agreement with the U.S. that upgrades Israel’s military advantage and ensures its military advantage in the Middle East in the coming decades.”

The statement was issued after an announcement Friday that the government would not object to the sale of “certain weapons systems” to the United Arab Emirates in an apparent reference to the F-35 jets. The move by Netanyahu comes after he had initially opposed the U.S. sale of the advance fighter jets to the UAE as part of the normalization deal with Israel.

Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz traveled to Washington this week for an “urgent” visit with top U.S. defense officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon.

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While the initial subject of the visit was reportedly tied to developments related to the expiration of the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, a defense compensation package for Israel in return for its approval of the U.S. sale of F-35s to the UAE was also discussed.

After returning to Israel on Friday, Gantz briefed Netanyahu on the deals reached for the “procurement of advanced weapon systems that will significantly upgrade Israel’s military capabilities, maintain its security and its military advantage in the region, as well as its qualitative military edge in the coming decades,” according to the statement.

Gantz and Esper signed a joint declaration on Thursday at the Pentagon confirming the U.S. commitment to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME).

“During the visit, Defense Minister Gantz was notified by the U.S. administration of its plans to notify Congress of its intention to provide certain weapon systems to the UAE,” the statement said, without mentioning the F-35s.

“The prime minister and the defense minister both agree that since the U.S. is upgrading Israel’s military capability and is maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, Israel will not oppose the sale of these systems to the UAE,” it said.

Under law, the United States must maintain Israel’s QME in the Middle East; any changes must be approved by Congress.

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While it is unclear what additional upgrades Israel could receive, reports indicate that it is interested in acquiring the V-22 Osprey aircraft.