Jerusalem has given its tacit approval of a proposed deal that would see the United Arab Emirates buy advanced F-35 stealth aircraft from the United States. If completed, Abu Dhabi would become only the second country in the Middle East to operate the F-35, apart from Israel.
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.