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UAE cancelled meeting with Israel officials over F-35 row

Israel has already purchased the F-35 [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 August, 2020

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Early frictions have emerged in the UAE-Israel alliance.
The UAE cancelled a meeting with US and Israeli officials last week, in protest at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's public opposition to the sale of American F-35 jets to Abu Dhabi.

The talks were due to take place last Friday in a public gesture of the Israeli-Emirati committment to the new normalisation deal that was agreed between the two countries earlier this month, Axios reported.

An early sign of frictions has emerged over the planned US sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, something strongly opposed by the Israeli military and political establishment.

Abu Dhabi has linked the sale of the cutting-edge stealth fighter to the normalisation agreement, as well as a halt to Israel's planned annexation of the West Bank, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has walked back on both issues. 

The UAE leadership is said to be angered over Netanyahu's public denial that he supported the F-35 sale, while the Israeli premier remains officially committed to his policy of annexing the Palestinian territories.

"They (UAE) were particularly angry that he (Netanyahu) told members of his Cabinet that he would raise his concerns about the deal with members of Congress," the report revealed.
Israel - which has already purchased the jets - has sought to maintain its military supremacy in the region by restricting preventing the sale of the latest US weaponry to Arab countries, even allies such as the UAE.

The UAE has made the purchase of the F-35s a "top priority" and linked the controversial 13 August normalisation deal with Israel to the issue.

Since then, Netanyahu has dismissed reports that he agreed to the F-35 UAE sale as "fake news", while the US has also publicly stated its commitment to its policy of maintaining Israel's regional military hegemony.

Abu Dhabi responded by cancelling a trilateral meeting between leading Emirati, Israeli and American diplomats at the UN in New York in protest at Netanyahu's comments, Walla news agency reported.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a tour of the region to promote the UAE-Israel agreement, visiting Israel on Monday and is due to fly into Abu Dhabi later this week.

In Jerusalem he appeared to back Netanyahu on the issue of the F-35 sale but stressed the importance of the US-UAE relations.

"The United States has a legal requirement with respect to qualitative military edge, and we will continue to honour that," Pompeo said at a press conference with Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

"We have a 20-plus-year security relationship with the United Arab Emirates as well, where we have provided them with technical assistance and military assistance and we will now continue to review that process."

Pompeo will also visit Bahrain and Sudan, both tipped to follow the UAE and announce normalisation deals with Israel.

There has been huge anger at the Israel-UAE normalisation deal in the Arab world, which is viewed by some analysts as a way of further strengthening the two countries' shared strategic interests.

Both countries strongly oppose Turkey's interests in the region and have a shared hostility towards Iran.

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