Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a joint statement Monday afternoon in Jerusalem, following a closed-door meeting between the two leaders.
Netanyahu praised the Trump administration for pushing for a restoration of sanctions restricting arms sales to Iran, and lauded the recent agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates to sign a comprehensive deal normalizing relations between the two countries.
“This has been brokered by President Trump, with your assistance, and it has been a boon to peace and regional stability.”
The Israeli premier also hinted at additional possible peace deals in “the near future”, ahead of Pompeo’s trips to Sudan and Bahrain, aimed at building upon the UAE-Israeli peace agreement by adding additional states.
“It heralds a new era in which we can have other nations join. We discussed this, and I hope we’ll have good news in the future – maybe the near future.”
Touching on efforts by the UAE to secure the sale of F-35 stealth fighters from the US, Netanyahu said that the peace deal did not include “Israel’s acceptance of any arms deal.”
“And I don’t know of any arms deal that has been agreed upon. It may be contemplated, our position hasn’t changed. But I also learned from Secretary Pompeo that… under all circumstances the United States will ensure Israel’s qualitative edge. That has proved to be true over four decades of peace with Egypt and two-and-a-half decades of peace with Jordan. The United States has stood by that commitment.”
Pompeo said that the administration is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear arms and “high-end” conventional weapons.
“President Trump has made clear that Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. We are determined to use every tool that we have to ensure that they can’t get access to high-end weapons systems.”
“Iran is on the cusp, on October 18th, of having those weapons.”
The US has lobbied the United Nations to extend the arms embargo on Iran, which is set to sunset next month, in keeping with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Responding to Netanyahu’s concerns the US could sell F-35 stealth fighters to the UAE, Pompeo said the US would maintain Israel’s military technological edge, but did not rule out the possible sale.
“The United States has a legal requirement with respect to qualitative military edge. But we have 20-plus-year security relationship with the United Arab Emirates as well, where we have provided them with technical assistance and military assistance. We will now continue to review that process to ensure that we are delivering the equipment that they need to secure and defend their own people from this same threat, the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“We are deeply committed to doing that, to achieving that, and we will do that in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel as well.”
The Secretary of State also expressed optimism that the Israel-UAE deal will lead to additional agreements between Israel and moderate Arab and Muslim states.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll see other Arab nations join this. The opportunity for them to work alongside and to recognize the State of Israel will not only improve Middle East stability, it will improve the lives of the people in their own countries as well.”
Pompeo, who kicked off his five-day tour of the region on Monday, is expected to fly to Sudan after meeting with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz on the first direct flight between Israel and Sudan ever.
Later, he will travel to the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain.
Both Bahrain and Sudan are reportedly considering normalizing relations with Israel.