Qatar and Saudi Arabia could eventually obtain F-35 stealth fighter jets if they want them, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud) told Ynet on Sunday.
Steinitz, who is a member of Israel’s security cabinet, added that this possibility exists despite Israel’s opposition, especially to a sale to Qatar, which maintains strong ties with Iran and Hamas.
“It should worry us. Ultimately, the US looks out for American interests,” Steinitz said, elaborating that US interests include competition for the sale of stealth jet from Russia and China. Steinitz added that the US had sold advanced aircraft to Arab countries in the past over Israel’s objections.
Following Steinitz’s statements, a subsequent Ynet report stated that senior defense officials are worried that the US would include the sale of F-35 jets to Saudi Arabia and/or Qatar as part of a potential normalization agreement with Israel.
“Saudi Arabia, unlike the Emirates, is located only 200 kilometers from Israel’s southernmost city of Eilat and we can’t know what will happen in the distant future in terms of strategic twists and turns,” one official said, referring to the extreme regime and civil changes that Middle Eastern countries are prone to.
Qatar submitted a formal request to purchase U.S. F-35 jets on October 7. Israel expressed its opposition to the move to the US but to date, the US has maintained silence on Qatar’s request.
Israel, which initially expressed its misgiving on the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE, dropped its opposition to the deal following meetings between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper in Washington last week.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)