Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday that he wants the country to buy a third squadron of stealth F-35 warplanes from the United States, and that he hoped a deal could be clinched before President Donald Trump steps down on Jan. 20.
Israel has been in talks with Washington on how to preserve its military advantage after the Trump administration approved a possible F-35 sale to the United Arab Emirates last year. The plane was previously available only to Israel in the region.
"Without doubt, we need to expand the F-35 array. Right now we have two squadrons. I reckon we will expand that. That is what I requested of the Americans," Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Ynet TV.
Defense officials have said the two squadrons already ordered by Israel consist of 50 planes. "I would buy another F-35 squadron and then examine what to do with the balance - continuing to expand the F-35 (procurement), going for F-15s?"
Asked if Israel might complete a defense procurement deal with the United States before Trump steps down, he said: "I hope so. I think the defence budget needs to be handled properly, to be safeguarded. It is a kind of active insurance policy."
He added that he will vote against the shutdown of the education system when the cabinet meets on Tuesday to discuss the tightening of the coronavirus lockdown.
"This is the most important thing in my eyes, and we will do everything to keep the education system open," he said. "Most of the cases among the students did not originate within the education system ... why should the education system pay the price?"