The United States will ensure Israel retains a military advantage in the Middle East under any future U.S. arms deals with the United Arab Emirates, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday.
“The United States has a legal requirement with respect to qualitative military edge. We will continue to honor that,” Pompeo told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu said he had been reassured on the issue by Pompeo, who began a Middle East visit in Jerusalem that will showcase U.S. support for Israeli-Arab peace efforts and building a front against Iran. It will also include Sudan, the UAE and Bahrain.
A U.S.-brokered deal on normalizing relations between Israel and the UAE was announced on Aug. 13. But there has been some dissent in Israel over the prospect of the Gulf power now obtaining advanced U.S. weaponry such as the F-35 warplane.
Speaking on CNN at the weekend, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner said the UAE had been trying to get the F-35 for a long time.
“This new peace agreement should increase the probability of them getting it. But it’s something we’re reviewing,” he said.
Pompeo said Washington had provided the UAE with military support for more than 20 years, measures he described as needed to stave off shared threats from Iran – also Israel‘s arch-foe.
“We’re deeply committed to doing that, to achieving that and we’ll do it in a way that preserves our commitment to Israel and I’m confident that objective will be achieved,” Pompeo said.
Bruised by the U.N. Security Council’s rejection of a U.S. draft resolution for extending an arms embargo on Iran, the Trump administration is seeking a “snapback” of U.N. sanctions that had been eased as part of a 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.
“We are determined to use every tool that we have to ensure that they (Iran) can’t get access to high-end weapons systems,” Pompeo said. “We think it’s in the best interest of the whole world.”
Later in the trip, Pompeo was to meet with Netanyahu’s partner in the government and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, as well as Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
After his Israel stop Pompeo was also slated to visit Sudan, the UAE and Bahrain, with additional stops in the Gulf possible, the State Department had said. In Sudan, the secretary of state said he would push for “deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.”
In Sudan, Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sovereign Council Chairman Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Burhan to support their civilian-led transitional government and discuss “deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.”
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer said Sunday that he is working behind the scenes on more Israeli peace agreements with Arab countries.
“Doing this behind the scenes is very important,” he told Dubai-based Al Arabiya news channel.
“There are several countries where there are possibilities [for peace],” Dermer said. “I don’t want to say this specific country or not. But there are several countries, and we hope that we see another breakthrough very, very soon in the weeks and months ahead.”