The United States will ensure that Israel retains a military advantage in the Middle East under any future U.S. arms deals with the United Arab Emirates, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Aug. 24.
“The United States has a legal requirement with respect to the qualitative military edge,” Pompeo told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We will continue to honor that.”
Netanyahu said he had been reassured on the issue by Pompeo, who began a Middle East visit in Jerusalem that will showcase U.S. support for Israeli–Arab peace efforts and building a front against Iran.
“The United States stood by that commitment, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so,” Netanyahu said at the press briefing after the meeting with Pompeo.
A U.S.-brokered deal on normalizing relations between Israel and the UAE was announced on Aug. 13. But there has been some dissent in Israel over the prospect of the Gulf power now obtaining advanced U.S. weaponry, such as the F-35 warplane.
Speaking on CNN on Aug. 22, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said the UAE had been trying to get the F-35 for a long time.
“This new peace agreement should increase the probability of them getting it. But it’s something we’re reviewing,” he said.
Pompeo said Washington for more than 20 years had provided the UAE with military support needed to stave off shared threats from Iran—also Israel’s arch-foe.
The United States will, however, review the arms sale to ensure that the U.S. commitment to Israel is preserved and its military relationship the UAE will secure and defend the country against Iran, Pompeo said, adding that “both of these objectives can be achieved.”
Netanyahu praised President Donald Trump and his administration for brokering the Israeli–UAE peace agreement and said the deal doesn’t include any arms deal.
The agreement “has been a boon to peace and to regional stability. I think it heralds a new era where we could have other nations join,” Netanyahu said.
The Palestinians warned the Trump administration against trying to sideline them in the Middle East.
“Recruiting Arabs to recognize Israel and open embassies does not make Israel a winner,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in an interview with Reuters. “You are putting the whole region in a lose-lose situation because you are designing the road for a forever conflict in the region.”
The Israeli–UAE peace agreement was announced on Aug.13 and has been applauded by world leaders.
Per a request from Trump, Israel has suspended declaring sovereignty over certain areas, including the West Bank, and has focused on expanding ties to other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.
“After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalize their diplomatic relations,” Trump said. “They will exchange embassies and ambassadors, and begin cooperation across the board and on a broad range of areas, including tourism, education, health care, trade, and security.”
William Wechsler, director at Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council, said about the deal: “It is a strategic victory for regional security as it increases the pressure on Iran and its proxies. Over the four decades since the revolution, the regime in Iran has been the greatest beneficiary of the structural disunity between all of those who are threatened by its malign behavior.”
Tuqa Nusairat, deputy director at the Atlantic Council, said the deal “provides no tangible benefit for Palestinians whose future and livelihoods continue to be negotiated and determined by external actors whose interests are diametrically opposed to the Palestinians.”
“What is being portrayed as a concession on Israel’s part, pulling back on Netanyahu’s plan to illegally annex parts of the West Bank, is a face-saving measure for all parties,” Nusairat added.
After visiting Israel, Pompeo will travel to Sudan, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, a State Department spokesperson said in a statement.
“The U.S. commitment to peace, security, and stability in Israel, Sudan, and among Gulf countries has never been stronger than under President Trump’s leadership,” the spokesperson said.
Epoch Times reporter Zachary Stieber and Reuters contributed to this report.