U.S. Freeze of F-35 Sale to UAE Won’t Change Anything, Netanyahu Says

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Haaretz
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Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani at the White House, September 15, 2020
Netanyahu, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani at the White House, September 15, 2020Credit: TOM BRENNER/ REUTERS
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Haaretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he does not believe the Biden administration's temporary freeze of a sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates will harm the normalization agreement signed with Israel.

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"Everyone understands that there are tremendous benefits here. It's peace for prosperity," Netanyahu said during a tour of the Negev.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the Biden administration has suspended the deal, and is specifically reviewing the sale of Lockheed Martin F-35 jets to the UAE and munitions to Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during his confirmation hearings last week that the Biden administration would "take a hard look" at the UAE sale.

Blinken clarified on Wednesday that it was not uncommon "at the start of an administration to review any pending sales to make sure that what is being considered is something that advances our strategic objectives and advances our foreign policy."

UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef Al Otaiba also sought to reassure, saying in response that his country would work closely with the Biden administration on Middle East peace and stability, noting "the UAE anticipated a review of current policies." 

"The F-35 package is much more than selling military hardware to a partner," he added.

Blinken reiterated his praise of the Abraham Accords, noting that he hopes there is an opportunity to build on them in the months and years ahead, while also trying to ensure the U.S. has "a full understanding of any commitments that may have been made in securing those agreements."

The UAE has long expressed interest in acquiring the F-35 jets and was promised a chance to buy them in a side deal when it agreed to normalize ties with Israel last August. The sale has also brought into question whether it would jeopardize Israel's military qualitative edge in the region.

Netanyahu in October said that there had been an ongoing discussion between Defense Ministry officials and the Pentagon and that Israel had received strong assurances about "the American commitment to preserve Israel’s military qualitative edge.”

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