US plans sale of top-end fighter jets to UAE

US plans sale of top-end fighter jets to UAE

WASHINGTON: The United States has agreed to sell top-of-the-line F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates following its recognition of Israel, a lawmaker said on Thursday.

President Donald Trump’s administration informally gave a required notification to Congress on the sale, which could “significantly change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel’s military edge”, said Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat who leads the House foreign affairs committee.

The United Arab Emirates — which has been increasingly assertive in the region, including in Yemen and Libya — sought the advanced warplanes as it spoke to the United States ahead of its landmark recognition of Israel last month.

The normalisation — followed by similar moves by Bahrain and Sudan — was a diplomatic coup for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the Jewish state has also long opposed US sales of top-end warplanes to any Arab states including Egypt and Jordan, which already have peace treaties with Israel.

But Netanyahu indicated last week that Israel would not object to the UAE deal after Defence Minister Benny Gantz, his uneasy coalition partner, received assurances during a trip to the Pentagon that Israel would maintain its military edge.

US Defence Secretary Mark Esper was visiting Israel on Thursday for talks with Gantz about bolstering the US ally’s military capacities.

Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2020

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