Ehud Olmert to 'Post': F-35 sale isn't dangerous, Netanyahu's lies are

The simple truth when it comes to anything connected to Netanyahu is horrifying, so there’s no need to exaggerate.

CLAIMING THAT agreeing to sell F-35s to such a country will lead to strategic harm for Israel is an exaggeration. An F-35 aircraft is seen in mid-flight during an aerial exercise at Uvda Air Force Base. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
CLAIMING THAT agreeing to sell F-35s to such a country will lead to strategic harm for Israel is an exaggeration. An F-35 aircraft is seen in mid-flight during an aerial exercise at Uvda Air Force Base.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The sale of F-35 stealth jets to the United Arab Emirates does not, in my opinion, constitute a real and strategic danger to the security of the State of Israel. The sale of planes to the Emirates is part of the peace deal between the two countries. It is quite clear that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had not given his prior consent to the arms deal, there would not have been an agreement.
The relations between Israel and the Emirates have been slowly evolving for many years now. The first buds were seen back in the days when Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Netanyahu (his first term), Ariel Sharon and I served as prime ministers. Israeli companies that deal with security, as well as civilian companies, have been conducting indirect business deals with the Emirates and other Arab countries even though they don’t have official diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.
It’s completely clear that you cannot compare supplying weapons to a country that has no relations with Israel with supplying weapons to a country that has openly and officially declared its recognition of Israel.
Under these circumstances, claiming that agreeing to sell F-35s to such a country will lead to strategic harm for Israel is an exaggeration. It’s best to refrain from making such exaggerated statements, especially when they involve the prime minister, since in his case, the reality is already bad enough with no need for exaggeration. The simple truth when it comes to anything connected to Netanyahu is horrifying, so there’s no need to exaggerate.
I’d like to note here that with respect to the purchase of F-35 aircraft, there has been considerable exaggeration also regarding our purchase of these planes. I was serving as prime minister when US president George W. Bush sent his secretary of defense Robert Gates on a visit to Israel, during which he officially told me that the US had decided, after a period during which this issue had been tabled, to sell these aircraft to Israel. Gates even mentioned that the US was willing to involve Israel partially in the development of some sensitive systems in the plane. Eventually, my enthusiasm about Israel receiving F-35s waned.
The price for this jet is particularly high and its advantages when it comes to Israel’s military airspace are not far-reaching. The flight range of the F-35 is shorter than that of the F-16, for example. In other words, anyone who imagines F-35s attacking distant strategic targets and destroying significant threats to Israel is imagining things. In addition, the F-35 has a limited ability to evade enemy detection, far less than the F-22 Raptor, which the US is barred from selling to us and even other countries that are close American allies, according to a special amendment.
In view of the fact that Israel is not, at the current time, under significant threat from another air force in the region, I believe that the decision to invest billions of dollars from our foreign aid budget to purchase a number of F-35s was erroneous. I’ve commented to a number of IDF commanders that, in my opinion, this was an excessive investment and that we should have made do with a smaller number of aircraft for the purpose of training our pilots without making them our main aircraft.
A former defense minister once told me that he’d consulted all of the former Israel Air Force commanders regarding the purchase of F-35s and all of them were in favor of the decision. But, should we have expected any other response? Spending billions of dollars in this fashion was in my opinion excessive, unessential and is not a balanced way to spend our defense budget. It does not cover many other more important and urgent issues we have here in Israel.
If in the future, additional countries in the region sign peace agreements with Israel, and will maintain open and public relations with us, including opening up embassies in Israel, we should agree to having them become equipped with capable US arms, including new aircraft, so long as Israel is able to maintain its qualitative military edge, as per the US commitment to Israel.
When I was serving as prime minister, and in the years before that period, Israel agreed to arms deals between the US and moderate Arab nations, after taking joint action with the US using all the necessary measures to ensure that these weapons would not be used as a threat to Israel and that Israel’s qualitative edge would indeed be maintained.
The deal with the Emirates is legitimate. Precisely because of this, the prime minister’s shameless lie stands out. The exposure by journalist Nahum Barnea that the arms deal was a precondition of the peace agreement has added another layer to Netanyahu’s tower of lies, fraud and deception.
Had he not been a shameless crook, Netanyahu would have announced from the very start that any country that signs a peace agreement with Israel is a country fit to become equipped with effective weapons that can be used to defend itself against potential enemies, such as Iran, for example. This concept is so simple, obvious and natural that the lie must surely raise questions in our minds.
The need to hide the deal leads us to wonder whether it is part of a much bigger lie concerning additional military, security and policy agreements that Netanyahu has signed and the disclosure of which could be damaging to him politically, and perhaps pose a real risk to Israel’s security.
In his twisted way, and using his customary method of distortion and pretense, Netanyahu said of the peace and normalization agreement with the Emirates that he was not like Menachem Begin or Yitzhak Rabin. He – Netanyahu – was signing a peace agreement in exchange for... peace. The magician is not a magician and the man juggling the balls was in the best-case scenario a fake and a swindler. There is not now and never has been such a thing as peace for peace.
The agreement here involved concessions, and I welcome that. However, from Netanyahu’s point of view, especially in light of the repeated statements he made in the days leading up to the declaration of the deal, they are substantial concessions that touch on the core of what is ostensibly his worldview: concessions on annexation, agreeing to a two-state solution and freezing construction in new settlements. I welcome these concessions, and even though I don’t believe a single word that comes out of the liar’s mouth, I congratulated him here for the agreement and for the concessions.
Bibi, really, is devoid of any worldview. His entire worldview is: Bibi (and Sara and Yair). That’s where it starts and also where it ends. Everything revolves only around himself, his artificial and fake image and his tireless need to impress, deceive and enchant anyone who gets drawn into his ridiculous theater in which is the main star.
I read the moving words written by Amos Gilad in Yediot Aharonot. I’ve known Gilad almost since the beginning of his military career. When I was prime minister, I listened attentively to Gilad’s assessments, scholarly analyses and his insights on a variety of matters. I can think of few military figures in the IDF who are smarter, more experienced or capable of such deep thinking.
Gilad, I and plenty of others are not feeling anxious from hearing the lies that have already been uncovered, such as the Submarine Affair (whose mysteries are many and which requires much deeper investigation than what the attorney-general has carried out to date) and the F-35 affair. What we are worried about are all the lies that have yet to be uncovered.
When people become inured to a culture of lying, when dispersing falsehoods become a matter of routine, there is a danger that we will become desensitized to the substantial damage they can cause.
I think that Israel’s security will remain intact following Abu Dhabi’s purchase of F-35s, for which they will pay the US the full price with the money that they have in abundance.
What I am worried about is all the other lies and confidential agreements that the prime minister is hiding from the defense minister, from the heads of Israel’s security establishment and from the IDF chief of staff.
Someone who is capable of lying about the submarines and the aircraft will continue to do so in other matters, too. The only way to stop him is to eject him from Balfour and send him to a place where he will have to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.