The White House notified Congress it intends to sell 50 F-35 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin to the United Arab Emirates, setting up a potential showdown with the U.S. legislature, which could vote to block the sales, sources said on Thursday.
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 Dec. 2, Reuters reported in September.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and House of Representatives Foreign Affairs committees, whose members have criticized the UAE's role in civilian deaths in Yemen, have the right to review, and block, weapons sales under an informal review process.
Israel initially balked at the prospective sale but last year dropped its opposition after what it described as U.S. guarantees that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.
Netanyahu who denied early reports that the sale of the stealth fighter jets was linked to the UAE's decision to sign a peace deal with Israel, said the Israeli defense establishment had been in consultation with the Pentagon that ensures Israel's military superiority would not be compromised.
"We all face a common threat," 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) defense establishment received this clear American undertaking to preserve our qualitative military edge," added Netanyahu, who earlier on Thursday hosted visiting Pentagon chief Mark Esper.
Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, confirmed that an informal notification was sent to Congress on Thursday. "As Congress reviews this sale, it must be clear that changes to the status quo will not put Israel's military advantage at risk," he said.
Typically the informal notification process for complex deals like the F-35 sale is 40 days.
"Rushing these sales is not in anyone's interest," Engel warned in his statement.
Israel and the UAE had signed a U.S. brokered peace agreement in September.
First published: 19:17, 10.29.20