Friedman to ‘Post’: Israeli security not undermined in UAE deal

In first comments by US official, ambassador says future F-35 sale to UAE would be governed by obligation to preserve Israel's military edge

David Friedman (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
David Friedman
Any future sale of advanced weapons to the United Arab Emirates – including F-35 fighter jets – would be governed by the United States’ obligation to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and claims that the peace deal undermines Israel’s security are no more than part of a political assault by the “pro-Iran crowd”, US Ambassador David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Friedman became the first American official to openly speak about reports that the US has agreed to sell fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets to the UAE in exchange for agreeing to normalize relations and establish formal diplomatic ties with the State of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the White House have denied that there is a secret clause in the peace deal approving the sale. Netanyahu has said that he shared his objections to a potential sale repeatedly with the Trump administration.
Friedman said that while it was hypothetically possible that the UAE would one day receive permission to purchase F-35s, the procurement and manufacturing process would take “many years and there would be plenty of time for this relationship, and hopefully other peaceful relationships, to develop before anything would occur. Ultimately, under the right circumstances, both the US and Israel would benefit greatly from having a strong ally situated across the Strait of Hormuz from Iran.”
Claims that Israeli security would be at risk, he said, are wrong. The deal, he said, was a clear and decisive win for the UAE, Israel and the US and that “today the region is safer and more stable and the future is far brighter.
“I think it’s just a political assault from the ‘pro-Iran’ crowd seeking to undermine this historic achievement,” he said. “Any sale of weapons by the United States to UAE or any other regional player will continue to be governed by our obligation to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge — that’s the law. This deal creates a host of new opportunities for Israel and America — including in the realm of security — and I believe that many great things will come from it.”
Friedman confirmed that the UAE is one of the largest purchasers of weapons from the United States and that future deals will follow the guidelines of the QME process, which requires the Defense Department to ensure that weapons sales to Mideast nations comport with an American guarantee of Israel's military edge.
“They [the UAE] are very active in that marketplace,” he said. “As they continue to do so, and seek more advanced weaponry, the QME process will kick in as it has before and all the relevant factors will be considered, including, I would assume, the improved relations between the UAE and Israel. How that all gets evaluated by the military experts in charge of this assessment would be speculation on my part.”
Israel, he said, has no reason to be concerned. “President Trump has demonstrated both in word and deed that he is committed to Israel’s security like no predecessor before him,” the ambassador said.
Asked about the criticism of the deal in Israel and whether, in his view, it was motivated by political interests, Friedman said that it was “beyond political, its inane.”
“The logical extension of the argument is that Israel should never make peace with anyone because once its adversary becomes an ally it might get stronger,” he said. “I just don’t buy it. People should want to make peace with Israel so that they become stronger as a result!”
The immediate results of the deal, he said, were the weakening of Iran, the strengthening of US allies and friends in the region and the opening of new opportunities in the fields of biotechnology, cybersecurity, communications and more.
“The business to business relationship is like a dam that has burst, and we are excitedly watching people in the region see their lives improving in real time,” Friedman claimed.
While he said that he could not predict what the region will look like in several years, he voiced confidence that the “Abraham Accord” – as it has been called by the administration – will be the first of many more peace deals for Israel.
“All peace-loving people in the region will be stronger, safer and far more prosperous than they are today,” he said. “The president deserves enormous credit for bringing about this sea change in the Middle East.”