The Trump administration formally notified Congress last month of its intention to sell the F-35 stealth jet in a deal worth over $23 billion.
The votes were 50-46 and 49-47 on a procedural motion that stopped the effort to pass a resolution disapproving of the sale.
The Trump administration formally notified Congress last month of its intention to sell the F-35 stealth jet in a deal worth over $23 billion, and other state-of-the-art systems.
US senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced they are introducing four separate Joint Resolutions of Disapproval, “rejecting the Trump administration’s effort to provide the United Arab Emirates with a precedent-setting aircraft and myriad other weapons systems.”
An administration official told The Jerusalem Post that the president’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and special representative for international negotiations Avi Berkowitz spoke to several senators ahead of the vote, asking them to oppose it.
Menendez said during his speech at the Senate floor that “There are far too many outstanding questions and very serious questions about long-term US national security interests.”
“Beyond obliterating the Congressional review process, the administration also seems to have rushed through the inter-agency review of a sale of this magnitude,” he continued. “Whereas a sale of this scope would normally merit months and months of detailed deliberations between the departments of Defense and State, this sale was announced with more missing than a few dotted I’s and crossed T’s.”
“Do we really think we can sell this just to the UAE and not have those other countries come knocking on our door and start a very sophisticated arms race in the tinderbox of the world?” Menendez added.
Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador in Washington, addressed the arms sales on Tuesday and said that the opposition to the deal was politically motivated.
“Through the Abraham Accords, I think we basically prove that we are doubling down on our relationship with the United States,” Otaiba said in an online discussion hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington. “The question is what’s the real argument against it,” he added.
“We are buying weapons with our own money to defend ourselves from a common threat,” the Ambassador continued. “We are co-deploying with [the US] everywhere you go. We just made peace with Israel. And so, on substance and policy, there’s really very little argument against it,” he said.
“The most potent argument against it is the political one, that there was a lot of opposition because Donald Trump is the one selling arms to us. And I think that’s really what it comes down to. It comes down to a political debate, not a substantial debate,” Otaiba said.
On Monday, Israel’s Ambassador in Washington Ron Dermer said in an interview with MSNBC that Israel believes that the UAE is an ally in confronting Iran and does not think that the proposed arms sales to the Arab state will violate the US commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.
“What keeps me up at night is actually not the proposed F-35 sale to the Emirates,” said Dermer. “What keeps me up at night is the idea that somebody would return to the nuclear deal with Iran.”
Reuters contributed for this report.