Cabinet minister insists: US sale of F-35 jets to UAE is being blown out of all proportion

"All this talk of 'Israeli consent' is meaningless. The US makes up its own mind on who to sell arms to," says Israel's Energy Minister.

Y Rabinovitz ,

F-35 stealth fighter - no big deal?
F-35 stealth fighter - no big deal?

On Wednesday morning, it was announced that US President Donald Trump was being nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for brokering a normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Again the question of what price Israel is being asked to pay for this treaty has arisen; has Israel really conceded to the United States selling the UAE F-35 stealth jets, as multiple sources allege, or is it just a left-wing smear campaign, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud party insist?

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz of the Likud party offered 103 FM his own assessment.

“I think that this issue is being blown up out of all proportion,” Steinitz said. “You have to realize that it’s ultimately up to the Americans to decide who they want to sell advanced weapons systems to. While people talk about ‘Israeli consent,’ the United States makes plenty of arms deals that we object to, sometimes strenuously, and it makes no difference.”

Pressed to give examples, Steinitz responded, “The United States has sold advanced military equipment to the Emirates in the past, and also to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. We objected, and we were overruled, or ignored, whichever you prefer.

“The UAE put in their request for F-35 stealth jets over a year ago,” he pointed out. “But they’ve had F-16 jets for the past 15 years already, and they are qualitatively superior to what the IDF has. And as for the Saudis, they bought F-15s from the Americans in the past, and given that Saudi Arabia is just 150 kilometers away from Eilat, I would say that those F-15s pose a far greater threat to us.”

In that case, what does it actually mean when the United States promises to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge in the Middle East? “That’s what they’ve promised,” Steinitz replies. “Look, F-35s are not the big deal people are making them out to be. They have a range of just 1000 kilometers. The F-15s that the Americans sold the Saudis in the past – over our objections – are a hundred times a greater threat to us, in my opinion. And they went ahead with the sale. If the sale of the F-35s to the UAE goes through, then I anticipate that the Americans will offer us a compensation package of some sort,” he suggested.

Compensation beyond a nice treaty-signing ceremony on the White House lawn? That remains to be seen.