Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) told The Times of Israel that the US should sell F-35 fighter jets to Arab countries that have normalized with Israel under the Abraham Accords in exchange for investments that could benefit the Palestinians.
The Trump administration promised 50 F-35s to the UAE as its reward for normalizing with Israel. The deal was held up due to concerns in Congress about Israel losing its military edge in the region if the UAE acquires the jets, which have never been sold to a US Arab ally.
The Biden administration ultimately said it supports the F-35 sale, which is part of a major $23 billion arms deal that includes Reaper drones and munitions, but the sale still hasn’t been finalized.
A major aspect of the US push to normalize with Israel is to form an anti-Iran military alliance in the region. Gillibrand said the Abraham Accords countries should invest in humanitarian projects for Palestinians in exchange for “F-35s and other technology that they are desperate for that helps them create a regional missile defense [system] against Iran.”
Gillibrand made the comments after visiting the region along with six other members of the Senate’s Abraham Accords caucus. The US is pushing for more countries to normalize with Israel. So far, the UAE, Bahrain, and Morrocco have opened up with Israel under the accords.
Gillibrand said expanding the Abraham Accords shouldn’t be hindered by Israel’s plans to expand settlements in the West Bank. “I think you can have these negotiations about the Abraham Accords regardless of any local political issue,” she said. The new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to dramatically expand settlements and eventually annex the West Bank.
Netanyahu and the US want Saudi Arabia to normalize with Israel, but Riyadh insists that won’t happen until the Palestinians are granted a state, which is not impossible if Israel continues to expand settlements. Another Democratic member of Congress who spoke to The Times of Israel on the condition of anonymity said there would likely be enough support in Congress to reward Saudi Arabia with major arms sales if it decides to open up with Israel.
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of a US-backed coalition in Yemen that is notorious for bombing civilians. While there is significant opposition to arming these Gulf countries in Congress, for most US lawmakers, supporting Israel outweighs any concerns about the weapons being used to kill civilians.