US to reach F-35 jet deal with UAE despite Israeli objections, report says

U.S. looking for angles to keep Israel a step ahead as the UAE will become first Arab country to get advanced stealth fighter jet.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The U.S. and the United Arab Emirates are aiming to reach agreement by December on the sale of advanced F-35 stealth bombers to the Gulf Arab country despite objections from Israel, which wants to maintain its qualitative military advantage in the region, Reuters reported Tuesday.

Sources close to the negotiations told the news service the two sides want to sign a letter of agreement for the UAE’s National Day which is scheduled to be celebrated on December 2.

Israel has objected to the sale, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejecting a New York Times report earlier this month that claimed the Israeli leader had given quiet consent to the deal.

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz is in Washington Tuesday for a one-day lighting trip to meet with Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and other senior Pentagon officials. Before leaving Israel, Gantz tweeted that his mission to America was indeed to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.

“As part of my efforts to maintain Israel’s security superiority, I am embarking this evening on a 24-hour security mission in Washington,” Gantz tweeted Monday, “to ensure that our quality advantage is maintained,” adding that Iran would also be on the agenda.

Signed during the Obama Administration, the Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries detailed the U.S. “commitment to Israel’s capacity to defend itself with a qualitative military edge over all potential regional adversaries.” No Arab country has the advanced bomber that can evade enemy radar, with Turkey, a NATO member, being the only other country in the region with the jet in its inventory.

Israel has reportedly been using its F-35 bombers in numerous successful attacks against Hezbollah and Iranian targets in Syria.

Located only 80 kilometers away from the UAE, Iran is also an adversary of the Gulf state. In order to make the sale palatable to Israel, one solution the Pentagon is looking at is to make the F-35 more visible to Israeli radar systems, the report said. Other modifications are being considered that would boost the performance of the Israeli version of the F-35.

The Pentagon and UAE embassies refused to comment on the Reuters report.

Although details were never released, the Israel-UAE peace accord signed last week in Washington was suspected to have been reached only after Israel agreed to delay extending sovereignty on settlements in Judea and Samaria, and the U.S. agreed to the UAE being able to purchase the F-35.

Even if the deal is signed in 2020, the actual delivery of F-35s to the UAE will take years, Reuters said, citing that Poland purchased 32 planes at the beginning of 2020, but will only take its first delivery in 2024.