Mossad, Netanyahu's Office Pushing for Sale of Advanced Weaponry to UAE, Report Says

Senior defense officials oppose the move, fearing Israel's adversaries get hold of sensitive information, according to Yedioth Ahronoth report

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Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, May 24, 2020.
Mossad chief Yossi Cohen and Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, May 24, 2020.Credit: Chaim Tzach / GPO

Israel's Mossad spy agency and the Prime Minister’s Office have been trying for the past two years to convince the Defense Ministry to sell advanced weaponry and classified security expertise to the United Arab Emirates – with the full knowledge of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Senior officials in the Defense Ministry oppose the move, fearing that the knowledge sold to the Emirates will reach the hands of Israel’s enemies, according to the report, which Netanyahu's office denied.

The report states that the Mossad and the Prime Minister's Office have asked to ease the policy on permits for arms sales to the UAE, which began about a decade ago, for economic reasons and in an attempt to strengthen the ties between Israel and the Emirates, said defense sources quoted in the article. The Defense Ministry does not want to change the classification of the UAE, which limits what weaponry may be sold to the country.

The Prime Minister’s Office called the report “lies," adding that "No such request has reached the prime minister in recent years and if such a request had been presented to him the prime minister would not have approved it.”

Last week, Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the agreement on establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the UAE included Israeli agreement to the sale of F-35 warplanes and weapons by the United States to the Emirates. Netanyahu denied the report, but this week Jared Kushner, a senior adviser and son-in-law to United States president Donald Trump, said the agreement did raise the chances that the U.S. would sell the planes to the UAE.

On Monday, Netanyahu met with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Netanyahu said in his remarks to the press: “I have to say simply that this 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.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wearing face masks bump elbows after a joint news conference in Jerusalem, August 24, 2020. Credit: Debbie Hill/Reuters

“I heard again from Secretary Pompeo a very strong commitment that under all circumstances the United States will ensure Israel’s qualitative edge … and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so,” added Netanyahu.

Pompeo said after their meeting: “The prime minister spoke to the security commitments that were made. The United States has a legal requirement with respect to qualitative military edge. We will continue to honor that. But 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. We will now continue to review that process to continue to make sure that we’re delivering them with the equipment that they need to secure and defend their own people from this same threat, from the Islamic Republic of Iran as well. We are deeply committed to doing that, to achieving that, and we’ll do it in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel as well. I’m confident that both of these objectives can be achieved.”

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