US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman says it would likely take six to seven years before the United Arab Emirates received the F-35 stealth fighter jet under a contentious proposed arms sale that raised concerns in Israel over its potential to damage the country’s military edge in the region.
“The Emiratis have been trying to get the F-35 for six or seven years. The delivery time is probably another six or seven years from now, if they got [approval to purchase the aircraft],” Friedman says in an interview during the Jerusalem Post newspaper’s conference.
Though not formally a part of a recently signed US-brokered normalization agreement between Israel and the UAE, the sale of the F-35s is widely seen as having been contingent upon Abu Dhabi’s acceptance of the deal with Jerusalem.
The US ambassador appears to criticize Israeli officials who spoke out against or expressed hesitations about the proposed sale of the fifth-generation aircraft, a linchpin in Israel’s aerial superiority strategy.
“It’s not in Israel’s interest to discuss what they’re afraid of or what they want or what they should get,” Friedman says.
Yesterday, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz — who was kept out of the loop about the UAE normalization deal and the F-35 sale — met with American defense officials to discuss ways of maintaining Israel’s advantage in the region, likely through some combination of limiting the Emiratis’ use of the F-35 platform and the US selling more advanced technology to Israel.
“The professionals are engaged right now. Let them engage, let them continue to engage, and we’ll get to the right outcome,” Friedman says.
— Judah Ari Gross