Three US senators on Wednesday launched a bid to block the sale of top-of-the-line F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates, voicing concern over the deal seen as a reward for the nation’s recognition of Israel.
Even if the three can persuade a majority in Congress to oppose the $23 billion package, lawmakers would face an uphill climb to override a veto by outgoing President Donald Trump.
Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat close to President-elect Joe Biden, said that the UAE violated terms of previous sales, pointing to reports that weapons sent to the US ally have been discovered in war-ravaged Libya and Yemen.
Read more: Pompeo confirms US sale of F-35 jets to UAE
“I support the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, but nothing in that agreement requires us to flood the region with more weapons and facilitate a dangerous arms race,” Murphy said in a statement.
He sponsored the resolution with Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rand Paul, a Republican who is generally supportive of Trump but is critical of US military interventions.
"I support the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but nothing in that agreement requires us to flood the region with more weapons and facilitate a dangerous arms race," says Sen @ChrisMurphyCT https://t.co/ngOHNJdCA4
— Michele Dunne (@MicheleDDunne) November 18, 2020
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week formally informed Congress of the sale, hailing the UAE normalization with Israel and casting the sale as part of efforts against mutual adversary Iran.
The UAE had long requested the F-35s, which have stealth capacity and can be deployed for precision bombing, intelligence gathering and air-to-air combat.
Israel had considered its own F-35 fleet to be vital to its own strategic edge over Arab nations but dropped its opposition to the US sale as it saw the advantage of normalized ties.
Congress last year tried to block a major arms package for Saudi Arabia and the UAE but failed to muster the two-thirds majority to override Trump’s vetoes.
Israel opposed to middle eastern countries receiving F-35’s
Last month, the UAE and Israel announced a US-brokered agreement to normalize relations, including opening embassies in each other’s territory. The UAE will be the third Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel following Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994.
“They haven’t agreed to anything other than, in principle, let’s do this campaign to rescue our friend from oblivion,” said Jahshan. He added that Trump will use the meeting as a “photo-op” for his re-election bid in a move that will also benefit Netanyahu, who is facing unprecedented protests and corruption charges.
Ariel Gold, national co-director of Code Pink, an anti-war feminist group, echoed Jahshan’s remarks, saying that the deal aims to boost all three leaders involved.
She said Trump wants to divert US public attention away from the mounting death toll of the pandemic; UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed wants to distract from his country’s human rights abuses, and Netanyahu wants to quell demonstrations against his government.
“So this is a win-win for all three of them, but the big losers are the Palestinian people,” Gold told MEE.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk