Netanyahu condoned sale of F-35s to UAE, despite public denial - report

Sources familiar with the negotiations say the prime minister went along with the plan for the Trump administration to sell weapons to the Emirates.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (photo credit: CANVA.COM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed
(photo credit: CANVA.COM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu privately condoned the US plan to sell highly-advanced F-35s fighter jets to the UAE, despite publicly saying that he opposed the arms deal, The New York Times reported early Friday. 
Sources familiar with the negotiations told the Times that Netanyahu went along with the plan for the Trump administration to sell the F-35s to the Emirates, choosing not to block the deal. This is after he categorically denied condoning the sale, according to Haaretz.
The Prime Minister's Office responded to the Times report in a statement, saying, "Repeating a false allegation against Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make it true.
"At no point in the talks with the United States leading to the historic breakthrough with the United Arab Emirates on August 13, did the prime minister give Israel's consent to the sale of advanced weapons to the Emirates."
The Likud said "it is difficult for the Left to accept that the Prime Minister Netanyahu abolished the concept of "territories for peace" and brought about "peace for peace" for the first time, so they are running a fake news campaign against him."
"It is amazing to discover that those behind this false campaign are the same people who supported the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran and the uprooting of settlements in Judea and Samaria – concessions that would have sacrificed Israel's security and which Prime Minister Netanyahu vehemently opposed," the Likud said.
Two weeks ago, Netanyahu said that the Israel-UAE agreement did not include Israel’s agreement to a US-UAE F-35 deal. Besides the F-35s, the arms deal includes the sale of Reaper drones.
The deal also includes the sale of electronic warfare planes with air defense jamming capabilities, a part of the package not previously reported, according to the NYT.  
Israel has long sought to maintain qualitative air superiority in the Middle East, having historically attempted to discourage the sale of advanced military equipment to states in the region. In 1981, Israel and the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) pushed the Reagan administration to not sell airborne early warning and control systems (AWACs) to Saudi Arabia.

Israel's ambassador to the US Ron Dermer gave a statement saying that Netanyahu did not give approval for a weapons deal involving F-35s.

Telem leader MK Moshe Ya'alon on Friday spoke to MK Zvi Hauser, who heads the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, requesting that it be convened urgently.
Ya'alon made the request in light of reports from several publications that Netanyahu gave the Trump administration permission to sell F-35 combat aircraft and other advanced weapons to the United Arab Emirates.
Ya'alon is demanding that the committee hold a discussion regarding the deal and its approval, which will include presenting a detailed report of the deal and clarifying the Defense Ministry’s position.
"I intend to demand a strict parliamentary supervision on all strategic discussions carried out between the American and Israeli administrations," Ya'alon said. "The discourse cannot be handled exclusively by Netanyahu and head of the National Security Council [Meir Ben-Shabbat] while ignoring Israel's official foreign affairs and defense establishments, as there's a real fear of the decision being made not being in line with Israel's national and security interests." 
Cody Levine and Tobias Siegal contributed to this report.