Sale of F-35s to UAE was missed opportunity for Israel


Opinion: Instead of denying that the sale was going ahead, Netanyahu should have used it as leverage for more American defenes aid and access to new technology while preserving the country’s military superiority in the region, instead he has made us all less safe Ben Eliyahu

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists he did not approve the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates as part of the normalization agreement signed Tuesday.

Furthermore, the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office on the issue clearly states: “The peace agreement with the UAE does not include any clause of this kind…”

Following Netanyahu’s denial, the New York Times cited U.S. officials confirming without a doubt that the sale of F-35 to the UAE – which was first revealed by Ynet’s own Nahum Barnea – is indeed part of the normalization agreement with the Gulf state.

For decades, Washington and Jerusalem coordinated all arm deals to Middle Eastern countries, and this time was no different. The U.S. informed Israel of the F-35 deal, giving the prime minister a chance to object.

In the past, Israel managed to stop arm sales to other countries, or at least demand changes to the weapons systems included, so that any potential threat to Israel’s security would be greatly reduced.

This was the case when the U.S. sold F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and F-16 fighter jets to Egypt – and also when the Americans previously supplied weapons systems to the UAE, including the controversial sale of state-of-the-art unmanned aircraft.

When Israel supplied weapons systems to countries in which the United States has political interest, including the UAE, the deals were subject to prior, explicit approval from Washington.

Israel has never carried out an arms deal that did not receive approval from the White House.


A U.S. veto of such deals between Israel and other countries or Israel raising reservations before America sold advanced technology to Middle Eastern countries are not moves that stem solely from concerns such weapons could eventually be directed against either nation.

There are in fact a number of reasons, such as the danger that certain technology could fall into the hands of a third and possibly hostile party; the implications of such sales for the balance of military power in the region; and sometimes simply in order to get the upper hand in the commercial sector.

There have been numerous occasions when the U.S. blocked the Israeli sale of technology or weapons systems to other countries in order to prevent competition and give an economic edge to American-based companies.

Since the U.S. committed certain countries to a treaty prohibiting the sale of unconventional weapons, it has actively blocked all sale of long-range weapons systems that could potentially carry unconventional payloads.

The prime minister’s stubborn insistence that he neither knew of nor approved the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE showed he was missing the point.


Netanyahu cannot claim he didn’t know or didn’t approve the deal, nor can he say the deal wasn’t part of the initial agreement to normalize relations between Israel and the UAE.

Netanyahu should have insisted on certain conditions before Israel would agree to the sale. These conditions should have been determined by Israel’s defense establishment, but they were kept in the dark by the prime minister and were never consulted.

Had Netanyahu asked the defense experts, he would have been in position to insist on maintaining Israel’s military superiority before agreeing to the normalization agreement.


He would also have received a renewed, written commitment from the Trump administration to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, which was enshrined in law by Congress in 2017.

He could also have even received a boost in the U.S. defense aid to Israel and access to superior new military technology.

Netanyahu was wrong to pretend the sale of F-35s to the UAE was not happening. He failed in his obligation to include the defense establishment in the discussion and has endangered Israel’s future security.

Maj Gen. Eitan Ben Eliyahu (ret.) is a former commander of the Israeli Air Force



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