Israel will oppose Qatar’s request to buy F-35 fighter jets from the US, even at the price of preventing the normalization of ties with the Gulf Arab country, Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said on Sunday.
Maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region takes precedence over other considerations, Cohen said in an Army Radio interview. Qatar has ruled out normalizing ties with Israel before its conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which signed a US-brokered normalisation pact with Israel in September, has similarly asked to buy America’s most sophisticated warplane. The Trump administration is expected to submit the request to Congress, where it is likely to generate some tough questioning about how it affects Israel.
Cohen added that other countries he didn’t identify have put in confidential requests to purchase the jets.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper had earlier said the US would ensure Israel military superiority in the Middle East, amid reports of US sale of F-35 fighters to the UAE.
“A cornerstone of our defence relationship is preserving Israel's qualitative military edge in the region,” Esper said, adding, “The United States is committed to that, and the Department of Defense is committed to that imperative. We will continue to support the longstanding US policy to maintain Israel's security.”