In a Friday joint statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel would not oppose a US sale of “certain weapon systems” to the UAE, which signed a peace agreement with Israel last month and opened normal diplomatic relations.
“The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister both agree that since the US 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,” the Israeli leaders said.
According to the release, Gantz reached “understandings” with US military leaders during his visit to the US earlier this week aimed at ensuring Israel maintains that edge.
At present, Israel is the only country in the Middle East to operate the F-35 Lightning II, a fifth-generation stealth aircraft built by Lockheed Martin. Turkey would have become the second, but Washington removed Ankara from the F-35 program in response to Turkey’s purchase of S-400 air defense systems from Russia.
The aircraft not only sports a host of advanced radar and sensor systems, but is also designed to have a minimal radar signature, making it hard to spot, track and target with radar and missiles.
In August, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) announced its second squadron of F-35I “Adir” fighters, a specially modified version of the standard F-35A jet used by the US Air Force, was combat-ready. According to the Jerusalem Post, the IAF will have 27 F-35Is by November out of a total of 50 it expects to eventually receive.
While the UAE, a Saudi and US ally, might one day fly the F-35, Israel has already expressed firm opposition to the jet’s acquisition by another Persian Gulf power with which it also recently signed a peace deal: Qatar, which is closer to Iran as well as the Palestinian group Hamas, both of which are Israeli adversaries.
“Our security and military superiority in the region are the most significant things for us. Our region has still not turned into Switzerland,” Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen told Israel’s Army Radio on October 11.
On Friday, Sudan joined the UAE and Qatar in signing a peace deal with Israel, becoming the fifth Arab nation to do so. Egypt and Jordan, the first two to do so, signed peace deals decades ago.