Top White House advisor Jared Kushner said that the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates could increase the chances of a U.S. sale of F-35 fighter jets to the Emirates, a move that could reduce Israel’s military advantage in the region.
The sale of the jets is “something that the State Department and the U.S. military is looking at,” Kushner told CNN on Sunday.
"The reality is that this new peace agreement should increase the probability of them getting it... obviously we'll look at the QME," Kushner said referring to the qualitative military edge that Israel maintains over its neighbors in the region. Kushner added, "The UAE has been a tremendous military partner for America for many years, and so this is something that we could see potentially happening now as a result of this great breakthrough."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last week that the normalization deal with the United Arab Emirates does not include an Israeli agreement for weapons sales between the United States and the UAE.
“The peace agreement with the UAE does not include any clauses on the matter, and the United States clarified to Israel that it will always safeguard Israel’s qualitative edge,” Netanyahu said.
The United States has been eyeing the sale of F-35s in a side agreement to the peace deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump, Kushner’s father-in-law, helped broker. Trump said at a news conference last week that the Emirates was interested in buying the jets: "They'd like to buy F-35's, we'll see what happens, it's under review."
“The UAE has been trying to get the F-35 for a long time. The group that wants them not to get it the most is obviously Iran because they're right across the Strait of Hormuz from there,” Kushner told CNN. “The reality is that this new peace agreement should increase the probability of them getting it, but it's something we're reviewing. … The UAE has been a tremendous military partner for America for many years and so this is something that we could see potentially happening now as a result of this great breakthrough.”
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F-35 fighter jets are made by the American firm Lockheed Martin, and have been used by Israel in combat.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu “has opposed the sale of F-35 jets and other advanced weapons of any sort in the Middle East, including to Arab states that make peace with the State of Israel.” The office added that Netanyahu has expressed this position in past months to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Israeli officials involved in the progressing relations between Israel and the UAE told Haaretz last week that Israel did not change its longstanding opposition to selling F-35 jets and other advanced weapons to the Gulf state, despite the accord.
Kushner also told CNN that if the fighter jets deal does happen, it would be “in accordance with the right standards.”