According to a top Israeli defense official, the Jewish state seeks to remain the only country in the region with F-35 jets to maintain its military’s qualitative edge. The discussions between Israel and the United States have also reportedly touched upon the jet’s performance-enhancing software; unnamed sources confirmed to Haaretz that the matter is “part of the negotiations,” while Israel has denied having talks over the F-35 deal, under which Turkey is expected to obtain 100 stealth fighter jets.
The deal has drawn criticism from within the US Congress, with several lawmakers calling to halt the planned sales of more than 100 fighter jets.
"Our concern is that Turkey is going through a very dramatic transition as a country. Turkey has gone a long way from being a NATO ally and an important partner in working against terrorism, to the situation today, where it is holding an American citizen as a bargaining chip. This is not the behavior of an ally," Senator James Lankford told Haaretz, alluding to Andrew Brunson, a pastor, held in custody in Turkey since last year.
According to Lankford, this incident has shown that Turkey is becoming less reliable as an ally to the United States, and suggested withholding the technology from them.
"My concern is — they're a NATO ally, they have been a good partner for years, but if we don't know what the country is going to be like in a few years, we should withhold this resource from them," Lankford elaborated.
He also told the media outlet that recent disagreements between Turkey and the US on foreign policy issues should prompt the latter to “take a pause” and reconsider the F-35 deal, as well as other forms of military cooperation. The Israeli Embassy in Washington has yet to comment on the issue.
"No one here has any doubt that Israel prefers to stay the only country in the region that has these attack capabilities. The Israelis know how to make that clear, in their own ways, Lankford concluded.
Last week, the Israeli Air Force claimed that Israel had become the first country in the world to have carried out an attack using the F-35 stealth fighter jet.
Earlier this month, US Congressman David Cicilline proposed a bill in the House of Representatives to ban the sale of the jets to Turkey, citing its “thuggish, reprehensible behavior.”
The reports come a month after Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell said Turley’s purchase of the S-400s from Russia could negatively affect the delivery of the F-35s to Ankara.