Israel opposes sale of F-35 jets to UAE: reports
Abu Dhabi, which had been poised to benefit militarily from the move to launch "historic" ties with Israel, will not be able to add the US-mad jets to its fleet, Eli Cohen claimed in an interview with the Israeli Kann channel.
"We will act to prevent the sale of weapons that will damage the military superiority of the State of Israel," Cohen said during his appearance on the local channel.
"That includes F-35 [deal]. Our priority will be to maintain Israeli military superiority in the region."
The remarks came just days after reports revealed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consented to a US plan to sell advanced weapons to the United Arab Emirates in order to cement its normalisation agreement with the Gulf country, despite denouncing the arms deal when it was made public.
Citing officials involved in the negotiations, the New York Times report claimed that in a private meeting, Netanyahu gave his approval to US officials for a weapons deal involving F-35 planes, which the UAE has for years been attempting to procure.
At the time of the alleged meeting, Netanyahu was involved in broader negotiations to secure a normalisation agreement with the UAE.
However, he condemned the deal when it was made public and repeatedly denied he had approved it due to fierce opposition to it in Israel, including among defence officials.
Reports of the proposed arms deal surfaced on 19 August, six days after the US announced it had brokered a deal between Israel and UAE to establish full diplomatic relations.
The arms package includes cutting-edge weaponry including F-35 fighter jets, Reaper drones and EA-18G Growler jets - electronic warfare planes that can conduct stealth attacks by jamming enemy air defences.
The US has claimed that the arms sale was not linked to the normalisation agreement, but this has been met with scepticism.
As part of a long-running legal agreement to ensure Israel maintains a "qualitative military edge" in the region, the US must prioritise Israel's ability to defend itself when selling weapons to other countries in the region, where they may fall into the wrong hands.
Emirati officials were "stunned" by Netanyahu's criticism, the report claims, and responded by cancelling a meeting at the UN with US and Israeli officials scheduled for 21 August.
However, they were later assured that the arms deal would still go ahead.
Congress, which is yet to be officially presented with the proposed arms sale, is likely to vote it down if Israel has not officially consented to it.
Furthermore, some have suggested that the process to ensure that the proposed weapons do not jeopardise Israel’s military advantage in the region would take months.
The UAE became the third Arab country to agree to normalise ties with Israel, after Egypt signed a peace deal in 1979 and Jordan followed suit in 1994.
Last week, Netanyahu said: "There are many more unpublicised meetings with Arab and Muslim leaders to normalise relations with the state of Israel."
The Palestinians have roundly condemned the accord as a "betrayal" by Abu Dhabi of the struggle to establish a state of their own, incorporating territories seized by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, with east Jerusalem as its capital.
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In a final communique released after the talks, the Palestinian factions announced they had approved the creation, within five weeks, of a joint committee to organise "the popular resistance" and "put an end to the divisions" between themselves.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week undertook a regional tour, which took him to Sudan, Bahrain and Oman, in the hope of convincing other countries in the region to follow the Emiratis.