On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not oppose the US sale of “certain weapon systems” to the UAE after securing a guarantee from Washington that Israel will get new weapons in exchange. Although he did not mention the stealth fighter jets by name, Netanyahu’s statement was an apparent reference to the potential US sale of F-35s to the UAE.
Netanyahu made the announcement in a joint statement with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who signed a pact with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in Washington on Thursday. The agreement signed with Esper reaffirmed the US’s commitment to upholding Israel’s military superiority over its neighbors, known as the Qualitative Military Edge (QME).
According to the statement released by the two Israeli officials on Friday, Gantz briefed Netanyahu on deals reached with the US for “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.”
“During the visit, Defense Minister Gantz was notified by the US administration of its plans to notify Congress of its intention to provide certain weapon systems to the UAE,” the statement said. “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.”
According to The Times of Israel, a senior Israeli defense official said the deal inked on Thursday was a general commitment by the US to uphold Israel’s QME, and talks are ongoing about what specific weapon systems Washington would provide to offset the F-35 sale. In September, Netanyahu submitted a wishlist of advanced weaponry to President Trump worth $8 billion.
Upholding Israel’s QME is mandated by US law. There has been opposition to the F-35 sale in Congress over QME concerns. A group of bipartisan lawmakers introduced a bill in the House that would effectively give Israel veto powers over US arms sales to the Middle East. Now that Netanyahu has signed off on the deal, the opposition in Congress will likely fade.
News of Israel’s approval of the sale came as President Trump announced Sudan’s intention to normalize relations with Israel, the third Arab nation to do so after the UAE and Bahrain. When asked about the sale of F-35s to the UAE on Friday, President Trump said, “That process is moving along.”