WASHINGTON (JTA) — The preeminent Israel lobby AIPAC does not oppose the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the United Arab Emirates — a sign that the Trump administration has sold the Israeli government and its U.S. supporters on a deal that not so long ago they vigorously opposed.
“We do not oppose the proposed arms sale to the UAE, given the peace agreement reached between Israel and the UAE as well as the agreement reached between the U.S. and Israel to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) will not be adversely impacted by the sale,” Marshall Wittmann, the spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, wrote in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Wittmann’s reply to a JTA query comes the same day that one of the most hawkish pro-Israel groups, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, endorsed the sale, and days after Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, appeared on MSNBC with his UAE counterpart and did the same.
The Trump administration, and particularly President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, have been pushing hard for the sale in the administration’s waning days. President-elect Joe Biden has not said whether he would reverse the deal if it is not in place by Jan. 20, when he assumes office, and congressional Democrats have initiated legislation to thwart the deal.
News of the sale leaked months ago following the August announcement of Israel and the Emirates normalizing ties, spurring Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express their opposition. AIPAC backed at least one of the Democratic congressional bids that sought to limit the scope of arms sales to the UAE.
Trump administration officials have sought to persuade Israel and other skeptics that the jets are needed to present a united front against Iran, and that Israel will be able to preserve its qualitative military edge in the region.
Israel for decades has opposed advanced arms sales to even friendly Arab states because of the region’s instability and the fear that hostile actors could obtain control of the weapons.
Democrats oppose the sale in part because of the UAE’s role in the civil war devastating Yemen.