Israel 'Very Comfortable' With F-35 Sale to UAE, Ambassador Dermer Says

Amir Tibon
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The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, at an Israel American Association conference, 2017
The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, at an Israel American Association conference, 2017Credit: Perry Bindelglass
Amir Tibon

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said on Monday that Israel is “very comfortable” with the sale of F-35 planes to the United Arab Emirates, amidst growing skepticism in Congress about the Trump administration’s plan to sell dozens of advanced warplanes to the tiny Gulf country as part of a deal that included UAE normalization of ties with Israel.

“We strongly believe this agreement, this arms package, will not violate the U.S. commitment to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge,” Dermer said on an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Dermer spoke together with the UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef al Ottaiba. It was the first time that the two ambassadors had given a joint television interview since the signing of the countries’ normalization accords this summer.

“What keeps me up at night isn’t the sale of the F-35 to the UAE,” Dermer said during the interview. “It’s the idea that someone would return to the nuclear deal with Iran.

Dermer said that “the UAE is an ally in confronting Iran” and repeated his message that “we do not believe this arms package will violate Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.”

Dermer's comments will make it easier for the UAE and the Trump administration to fight back against criticism and concerns in Congress regarding the large weapons agreement that Trump signed with the country.

Members of Congress from both parties have raised questions about the sale, and some of them quoted criticism about the sale coming from Israel.

On Wednesday, Democratic Senators Bob Menendez and Chris Murphy and Republican Senator Rand Paul announced they will introduce four separate resolutions of disapproval of President Donald Trump’s plan to sell more than $23 billion worth of Reaper drones, F-35 fighter aircraft and air-to-air missiles and other munitions to the UAE. The administration will now be able to point to Dermer's strong approval of it, though many other lawmakers also raised concerns about how the UAE would use the weapons in attacks that would harm civilians in Yemen.

While the resolutions bring attention to lawmakers’ questions about the massive sales, and could delay them, they are unlikely to stop them.

U.S. law covering major arms deals lets senators force votes on resolutions of disapproval. However, to go into effect the resolutions must pass the Republican-led Senate, which rarely breaks from Trump. They also must pass the Democratic-led House of Representatives and survive Trump vetoes.

Reuters also contributed to this report.