Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday met to discuss the sale of fifty F-35 jets and other advanced weapons systems by the U.S. to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after that Gulf nation signed an agreement to normalize relations with Israel in September.
The meeting revolved around the question of Prime Minister Netanyahu's knowledge of and tacit agreement to the sale and ended without resolution.
Committee chairman Zvi Hauzer said the matter calls for more deliberations and the committee will resume its discussions at a later date.
During the debate, opposition lawmaker and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said that Netanyahu was aware of the U.S.'s intent to complete the sale as part of the peace deal and had lied to the Israeli public and the defense establishment. "We must investigate this, and other deals made in the dark," he said.
Deputy head of the National Security Council, Reuven Azar told lawmakers that Israel was compensated for the sale of advanced weapons to the UAE and denied that there was a secret agreement given by Netanyahu. "The understandings reached with the United States guarantee Israel's long-term military edge for the coming decades," he said. "There was no agreement with the Emirates in exchange for their agreement to the peace deal," he said.
"The defense minister told us that what you just said was a lie," Horowitz cried out, "it is just not true. You knew about the planned sale and you purposely hid it. It had been in negotiations for months. Please out of respect for us, don't lie."
Head of Strategic Planning in the Defense Ministry, Capt. Yigal Ostenovsky said Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his U.S. counterpart Mark Esper reached an agreement that would guarantee Israel's Qualitative Military Edge and that is all the ministry should be concerned with.
On Sunday, The U.S. State Department sent Congress an informal notification of plans to sell $10 billion of defense equipment, including precision-guided munitions, non-precision bombs and missiles to the United Arab Emirates, a U.S. congressional aide said.
The informal notification about the ordnance, which was sent to lawmakers late on Thursday, came just after U.S. President Donald Trump's administration informed Congress it planned to sell sophisticated armed aerial drones to the UAE.
Both of the recent informal notifications came on the heels of last week's notification of a potential sale of F-35 fighter jets to the Middle East country.
Trump brokered a deal in September in which the UAE forged official ties with Israel.
But Mideast expert, Amos Gilboa said Democrats could block a landmark weapons sale to avoid unnerving Iranian officials, with whom President-elect Joe Biden already said he wants to negotiate in an effort to curb Tehran's nuclear program.
“The assumption is that [Biden] won’t follow [Trump’s] path of that regional alliance because of his desire to negotiate a deal with Iran,” said Gilboa. “Supplying arms to Gulf states and adding more countries to the regional alliance with Israel will infuriate Iran, so he might put that on hold,” he said.