An effort to block the sale of F-35 fighter jets and drones to the United Arab Emirates failed on Wednesday in the U.S. Senate essentially approving the sale of 50 of the aircraft and other military equipment to the UAE in a $23-billion arms deal.
The sale will enable the UAE to become the first Arab country to obtain the stealth fighters. Israel is the only other country in the region that has them.
Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE ambassador to the U.S. and minister of state, was grateful for the vote.
“The UAE deeply appreciates the consideration of all senators on today’s votes,” he said. “Continued U.S. support enables the UAE to take on more of the burden for our collective security – ours, yours and our partners. It makes us all safer.”
The vote to block the sale was voted down 47-49.
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said that the sale of F-35s to the UAE — which he views as an ally — was less worrying to him than a nuclear Iran.
“What keeps me up at night isn’t the sale of the F-35 to the UAE. It’s the idea that someone would return to the nuclear deal with Iran,” he said a few days before the vote. “Both Israel and the Arab States in the region don’t support returning back to the JCPOA, and we hope that the administration will talk to us when they come in.”
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the official name for the nuclear deal signed with Iran in 2015 under former President Barack Obama. U.S. President Donald Trump pulled America out of the deal in 2018 and instead has enforced a “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions against Iran for pursuing its nuclear military program. Joe Biden has vowed to return the U.S. to the deal, something Israel and its new allies in the Middle East oppose.
“I would hope that the incoming administration would understand that 2020 is not 2015,” Dermer said. “[We] hope what the new administration would do is to speak to your allies in the region, speak to Israel, speak to the Arab states. Try to forge a common policy with us because we are on the front lines, and we are in danger from an aggressive Iran.”
The UAE has long sought to purchase the jets from the U.S., but the sale was not concluded until after the signing of the Abraham Accords in September which normalized relations between the UAE and Israel.
Sen. Bob Menendez, a Democrat senator from New Jersey, along with senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced a series of resolutions against the sale.
Trump — whose administration is responsible for the peace treaties between Israel and three Muslim countries — said he would have vetoed a congressional vote to block the sale.