Israel minister says policy on US arms sales to UAE unchanged

JERUSALEM (REUTERS) – Israel’s intelligence minister said on Tuesday (Aug 18) he knew of no change to a policy opposing US sales of advanced weaponry to Arab states that could diminish Israel’s military superiority, after a report the United Arab Emirates could clinch such deals.

The remarks by minister Eli Cohen followed a report in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that Washington planned a “giant” sale of F-35 jets and drones to the UAE after the Gulf country moved to normalise ties with Israel last week.

The US Embassy in Jerusalem had no immediate comment on the report. Under understandings dating back decades, Washington has refrained from Middle East arms sales that may blunt Israel’s “qualitative military edge” (QME).

Mr Cohen, an observer in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, said the decision-making forum had held no discussion on any changes to QME policy and that Israel had not agreed to any changes by the United States.

“I know of no change to the position and the policy of the state of Israel,” he told public broadcaster Kan. “I am telling you that Israel has not given its consent to coming along and changing the arrangement.”

He declined to be drawn on the UAE, which is currently unable to buy the F-35 – but which the Trump administration has said could clinch unspecified new US arms sales after Thursday’s normalisation announcement.

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