Trump Says 'No Problem' Selling F-35 Jets to UAE, Despite Netanyahu's Denial

Israel has opposed the U.S. selling the plane to other Mideast countries for fear of losing its military edge in the region

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An F-35 jet arrives at its new operational base at Hill Air Force Base, in northern Utah, September 2015.
An F-35 jet arrives at its new operational base at Hill Air Force Base, in northern Utah, September 2015.Credit: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

U.S. President Donald Trump told Fox News during an interview Tuesday he would have no problem in selling the F-35 plane to the United Arab Emirates.

Trump also said he would be willing to sell other countries in the Middle East the same weapons systems sold to Israel.

The F-35 has been a sticking point in the historic normalization talks between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Israel, which has the F-35, has balked at any other Middle East powers obtaining the plane, citing U.S. laws that it should maintain a military advantage in the region.

Anwar Gargash, the Emirati foreign minister, meanwhile said that the agreement should dispel "any grain of doubt" on why the Gulf state should get F-35 jets. "The UAE seeks like any country that takes its military seriously, to modernize its military, always, so our request for the F35 and other systems pre-dates this agreement," he said. He also said that Israel suspending its planned annexation of parts of the West Bank would stop the two-state solution being undermined and that the United States' mediator role was assurance that further annexation would be suspended.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in mid-August that the agreement to normalize relations does not include an Israeli agreement for weapons sales between the UAE and the United States.

“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,” he said.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a week later, in late August, after a meeting with Netanyahu that Washington is committed to preserving Israel's military edge in the Middle East. After their meeting, Netanyahu said the sale of F-35 fighter jets was not included in Israel's normalization agreement with the UAE, and that he was not aware of such a deal between the United States and the Emirates.

Earlier this month, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner met Emirati military officials at the UAE's Al Dhafra air base, where the U.S. keeps some of its F-35 advanced stealth warplanes, highlighting the UAE's years-long drive to obtain the aircraft.

Kushner, son-in-law of the U.S. president, was in the Gulf Arab state on a two-day trip with an Israeli delegation for talks with UAE officials following their U.S.-brokered August 13 accord to normalize relations.

The Gulf state, one of Washington's closest Middle East allies, has long expressed interest in acquiring the fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin Corp , which Israel has used in combat.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash has said normalization should remove "any hurdle" for the United States to sell the F-35 to the UAE.

A UAE official said the visit to the Emirati air base, which the U.S. also uses, near the UAE capital Abu Dhabi was not related to the F-35 issue, while another praised three decades of U.S.-UAE military cooperation.

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