The White House has agreed to sell top-of-the-line F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates following its recognition of Israel, potentially shifting the regional power balance, a US lawmaker has said.
President Donald Trump’s administration informally gave a required notification to Congress on the sale, which could “significantly change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel’s military edge,” Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on Thursday.
The White House notified Congress that it intends to sell 50 F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin to the UAE, sources told Reuters news agency.
The United States and the UAE aim to have a letter of agreement for the F-35 jets in time for UAE National Day celebrated on December 2.
The US Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, whose members have criticised the UAE’s role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review and block, weapons sales under an informal review process.
“The export of this aircraft requires very careful consideration and Congress must analyse all the ramifications. Rushing these sales is not in anyone’s interest,” Engel said.
Israel initially baulked at the prospective sale but last year dropped its opposition after what it described as US guarantees that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.
“We all face a common threat,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent allusion to Iran, told reporters on Thursday when asked about the Reuters report.
“But with that said, it was important that the (Israeli) defence establishment received this clear American undertaking to preserve our qualitative military edge,” added Netanyahu, who earlier on Thursday hosted visiting Pentagon chief Mark Esper.