(JTA) — The United States is negotiating the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates and plans to have a letter of agreement prepared by early December, according to a report citing sources close to the talks.
The report by Reuters was published Tuesday as Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, also the alternate prime minister, arrived in Washington, D.C., to meet with Secretary of Defense Mark Asper.
Israel’s government opposes the sale of the F-35s to the UAE, citing security reasons, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied that he agreed to allow the sale in order to reach the normalization agreement with the UAE signed earlier this month.
Gantz’s office said in a statement Monday that during his whirlwind 24 hours in Washington, he will participate in meetings “to discuss maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge, international policy vis-à-vis Iran and strategy for stopping its expansion and entrenchment in the Middle East, as well as discussion on defense cooperation and procurement.” The statement did not specifically mention the F-35 sale.
U.S. law mandates that Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region must be preserved, including in any U.S. arms sales. One way this could be achieved is by making the F-35 more visible to Israeli radar systems, Reuters reported, citing two unnamed sources.
Israel already has F-35s in service and has ordered a total of 50 of the $100 million planes from the Lockheed Martin company, with delivery to be completed by December 2024.
President Donald Trump said in an interview last week that he would have “no problem” selling the F-35 to “very wealthy countries” that “would like to buy some fighter jets.” He said such sales would create jobs in the United States.