Netanyahu Says Israel Agreed to Sale of F-35s to UAE; Gantz: Talks Were Kept From Me

Statement by the PM claims that Israel only agreed not to oppose weapons deal after defense minister held discussions with Pentagon ■ Gantz says Israeli officials knew of arms negotiations, hid it from security establishment

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Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel June 27, 2019
Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel June 27, 2019Credit: Amir Cohen/ REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel's authorization of the United States' sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates was not part of the peace deal signed between the nations in Washington, and that this came about through discussions held by Defense Minister Benny Gantz with the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, in a statement of his own, Gantz claimed that negotiations on the sale of arms were known to some Israeli officials, but were kept hidden from him and Israel's security establishment.

Earlier on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that Israel and Sudan agreed to normalize relations in a deal brokered with the help of the United States, making Sudan the third Arab country to set aside hostilities with Israel in the past two months.

In September, Netanyahu denied a New York Times report claiming that he had chosen not to block a U.S. plan to sell advanced weapons to the United Arab Emirates behind closed doors.

"Repeating a false allegation against Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make it true," read a statement released at the time. "At no point in talks with the United States leading to the historic breakthrough with the United Arab Emirates on August 13 did the Prime Minister give Israel's consent to the sale of advanced weapons to the Emirates."

However, a statement released by Gantz's office said that "after the peace deal was signed with the UAE, the defense minister learned that, concurrently, negotiations on the sale of advanced weaponry" to the UAE took place. The statement then claimed that this was known to Israeli officials who were involved in the talks, but was kept secret from Israel's security establishment.

"The Defense Minister sees paramount strategic value in achieving peace and regional stability, and that is why he has led determined and independent dialogue with the American administration since the agreement was signed."

This, the statement said, is "in order to ensure the deal is fulfilled whilst securing Israel's Qualitative Military Edge and bolstering the Israeli army for the coming decades."

A joint statement released shortly after Trump's announcement by Netanyahu and Gantz said that the two agreed that in light of a promise by Washington to upgrade Israel's military edge in the Middle East, Israel would not oppose the sale of the F-35s to the UAE.

A statement released slightly after by the premier said that "after careful examination of the issue by officials and experts in the Defense Ministry, it was decided that Israel does not oppose supplying certain weapon systems to the UAE, so long as it is anchored in an agreement with the United States which upgrades Israel's Qualitative Military Edge and guarantees it's superiority in the Middle East for the coming decades."

The agreement with the U.S. is the culmination of lengthy discussions that began in September between Gantz and U.S. Secretary of Defense to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, the joint statement by the prime minister and defense minister said.

Gantz stressed that the understandings reached with the U.S. would enable long-term procurement plans that would provide Israel with advanced weapons systems, significantly upgrade its military capabilities, and guarantee Israel's security and qualitative military edge.

It was during his visit that U.S. government officials informed Gantz that the Trump administration plans to notify Congress in the near future of its intention to supply certain weapons systems to the UAE.



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