Israel says US sale of F-35s to Qatar would threaten military edge

Israel says US sale of F-35s to Qatar would threaten military edge
'Security and our superiority in the region are the most significant things,' Israel's intelligence minister said following Qatar's request for F-35 jets from the US
2 min read
11 October, 2020
The F-35 is the most advanced jet in the American arsenal [Getty]
Israel will oppose any US sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to Qatar in order to protect its regional military superiority, intelligence minister Eli Cohen told Army Radio on Sunday.

"As far as we’re concerned, security and our superiority in the region are the most significant things," Cohen said.

"For us, our region still hasn’t become Switzerland. Israel is the most threatened country, not only in the Middle East, but in the whole world, and as such, we need to preserve our superiority."

Cohen's comments follow Doha's submission of a formal request to Washington for the advanced fighter jets, which are manufactured by US firm Lockheed Martin.

Qatar’s request comes after the US provisionally agreed to sell the planes and other advanced weaponry to the UAE, citing its controversial normalisation deal with Israel as a factor in its favour.

The Trump administration has been pushing forward with the lucrative weapons deal to the Gulf kingdom in spite of opposition from Israel, which says the sale contravenes the US' legal obligation to ensure Israel maintains a quantitative military edge (QME) over other states in the region.

Israel is currently the only country in the Middle East to have F-35s, the most advanced jet in the American arsenal, with a fleet of 50 and potential to expand.

US officials, including Trump's senior advisor Jared Kushner, have vowed to maintain Israel's military edge while going ahead with the F-35 sale.

Read also: How the Israel-UAE alliance formalises new fault lines in the Middle East

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are also likely to strongly oppose the sale of F-35s to Qatar, with both countries launching a blockade on the tiny Gulf state in June 2017.
Even if Doha's request is approved, it would be years before it would acquire the $80 million jet.

Despite pressure from Washington, Qatar is also highly unlikely to establish ties with Israel.
While the US has close ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, it also considers Qatar a key regional ally and operates the Al-Udeid airbase in the Gulf state, which is home to 8,000 US service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

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