by Ariel Kahana
In an attempt to spoil the celebrations about peace with the United Arab Emirates, opponents of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made up a new story last week, and are claiming that Bibi has given the Americans a nod to sells F-35 fighter jets to the UAE. In effect, we are to understand, he hasn't secured any historic achievement, but once again sold off Israel's security.
There is no deal for the US to sell the UAE the F-35. If there were a deal, Israel couldn't stop it. If a deal is reached, it will pose much less risk to Israel than previous US sales of military equipment to Arab countries.
Well, you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
Let's start with a little background. The American weapons industry is one of the strongest, richest, and most powerful lobbies in the world. It is so strong that American administrations are afraid of it, and cover up its failures. Because it is so critical to the US economy, presidents and legislators have always helped sell advanced weaponry to the world, including Arab countries. Israel has objected, to no avail.
In 1980, for example, the US sold Egypt the F-16 fighter jet, the most advanced in the world at the time. Egypt was our biggest enemy. Only seven years earlier, in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, it had done serious damage to our air force. Israel had signed a peace treaty with Egypt only a year before the sale, and it hadn't even been implemented. Still, it was clear to leaders in Israel and Washington that the risk – which was much greater than the case of the UAE – was worth it. So what is all the current fuss about?
Let's move on. Saudi Arabia, which is even closer geographically to Israel than the UAE is, has been operating F-15s for 40 years already, even though the Saudis led the vanguard of hatred for Israel in the Arab world. Israel knew about those planes and ignored them because there was nothing to be done. None of the people clutching their pearls now expressed any worry about the Saudi planes back then.
Again, in the 1980s, the US sold Saudi Arabia its AWACS early warning aircraft. With our supporters in Washington, Israel campaigned to stop the deal but failed miserably. Not only did the Saudis receive the aircraft, which controls the skies of the Middle East, but Israel – who had also requested it – was turned down. Where were commentators Nahum Barnea and Amnon Abramovich?
And now we arrive at the present day. While it was still in the design stage, the US intends to export the F-35 around the world. Thus far, it has been sold to many of the US's friends, such as Turkey. It was former President Barack Obama who approved the sale of the little stealth fighter to the sultan. President Trump, who along with Netanyahu is being accused of being so greedy that he is willing to sell off Israel's security, stopped continued sales of the F-35 to Turkey. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also buying S-400 missiles from Russia. We're lucky that only four of the F-35s out of the planned 120 were actually delivered to Turkey.
Third, the evidence dispels any base for claims about "stealth fighters in exchange for peace." Prime Minister Netanyahu had made public all the steps he and his people took to oppose the sale of this aircraft to the UAE. They still object to it. Moreover, a conversation between the head of Israel's National Security Council and the commander of the Israeli Air Force about the possibility that the Emiratis might purchase the F-35 took place before any possibility of a peace deal with the UAE was even on the table. Meir Ben-Shabbat spoke with Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin on June 2, and the "sovereignty in exchange for peace" deal was presented to the Emirati envoy only 10 days later, on June 12.
Later, at the end of June, White House envoy Avi Berkowitz visited Israel to look into what could be done about the matter of Israel applying sovereignty to settlements in Judea and Samaria. In other words, when Netanyahu supposedly dispatched Ben-Shabbat to "send out feelers" with the head of the air force, none of this was happening yet. So we have multiple layers of falsehood.
There is no deal for the US to sell the Emiratis the F-35. If one is reached, it will have nothing to do with Israel, and in any case, it would present little risk in comparison to the deals of the past. So we can turn off the alarm.
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