The UAE's newly announced deal with Israel should clear the way for the purchase of American F-35 fighter jets, a senior Emirati official said Thursday. hours after U.S. President Donald Trump said he is considering selling the Gulf state the advanced warplanes.
The agreement for normalized ties with Israel should remove "any hurdle" to the sale of the fighter jets, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said, adding that the the UAE requests to buy the planes predated the new alliance.
"We have legitimate requests that are there. We ought to get them ... the whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel no longer exists," Gargash said in an online interview with the Atlantic Council.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vehemently denied that the nascent agreement between Jerusalem and Abu Dhabi included a secret clause to facilitate the sale of the jets to the UAE.
Ynet on Tuesday revealed the existence of the secret clause in the recently reached agreement between Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic ties, which allows the U.S. to provide the Emiratis with the F-35s and advanced drones.
Trump told reporters at a White House news conference on Wednesday that the Emiratis had expressed interest in buying “quite a few” of the stealth fighter jets.
He said such a sale was “under review” given the new dynamic between Israel and the UAE since the two nations agreed to normalize relations last week.
Perhaps just as important, Trump said, is that the UAE can afford to buy the planes.
“They have the money and they would like to order quite a few F-35s,” Trump said. “It’s the greatest fighter jet in the world, as you know, by stealth, totally stealth.”
“They’d like to buy F-35s, we’ll see what happens,” Trump added. “It’s under review, but they made a great advance in peace in the Middle East.”
Netanyahu took to Twitter on Tuesday to deny the existence of the secret clause - branding the Ynet report "completely fake news" - even as his office said that he had repeatedly expressed to American officials Israel's concerns over such an arms sale.
"The peace agreement with the UAE does not include any clause of this kind, and the U.S. has made clear to Israel that it will always ensure that Israel has the qualitative advantage," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.
But the statement also said that, "In the prime minister's conversation with U.S. Ambassador [to Israel David] Friedman on July 7, the prime minister explicitly expressed Israel's opposition to the sale of F-35 aircraft and other advanced weapons to any country in the Middle East, including as part of any peace agreements," it said.
Maintaining regional military supremacy has been a hallmark of Israeli policy for decades, and Jerusalem has used close ties with Washington to ensure that certain sophisticated weapons are not sold to neighboring countries.
As part of his various corruption scandals, Netanyahu has also been accused by critics of bypassing Israel’s defense establishment in regards to a German sale of advanced submarines to Egypt.