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Monday, October 26, 2020

Israeli minister opposes F-35 warplanes sale to Qatar

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Questions regarding fighter jet sales to the Gulf country emerged following Doha’s alleged purchase request.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen says Israel will oppose any attempt by the US to sell F-35 warplane to Qatar, Reuters reported on Sunday.

When asked about Qatar’s alleged interest in buying the warplane and what that would mean for Israel’s military dominance in the region, Cohen said: “The answer is yes. Our security and military superiority in the region are the most significant things for us. Our region has still not turned into Switzerland.”

Qatar, a country that refused to normalise with Israel, had allegedly submitted a formal request to the United States to buy stealth F-35 fighter jets, according to Reuters. However, no comments were made from Doha or Washington regarding confirming these reports.

“As a matter of policy, the United States does not confirm or comment on proposed defense sales or transfers until they are formally notified to Congress,” said a US State Department spokesman.

Qatar’s alleged request followed an August deal between the US and the UAE in which Washington reportedly agreed to consider selling  AbuDhabi F-35s. The UAE would be the first Gulf state to possess the stealth jet if the deal is ever approved.

But although requests to obtain the American jets from Lockheed Martin Co, a leading aerospace and weapons manufacturer must be approved by the US government, Israel has a big say. This is mainly due to decades-old US-Israeli policies, restricting arms and weaponry deals in the Middle East to maintain Tel-Aviv’s military advantage in the region, ultimately ensuring that it can continue illegally occupying land without any threat.

“A cornerstone of our defense relationship is preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region,” said Mark Esper, US Defense Secretary, as he welcomed Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to the Pentagon in September.

While the US has yet to process the deal with the UAE considering its policies with Israel, a letter of agreement might be in place in time for the Gulf country’s National Day, celebrated on December 2, Reuters said.

The US has sold the jets to some of its allies, including Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Israel.

Read also: Qatar dismisses normalisation claims, says its position remains the same

Qatar’s position in the illegal occupation of Palestine

While some claimed that Qatar’s request is associated with upcoming normalisation deals, a source said that there was no sign of such ties.

Qatar has also repeatedly reiterated its position in the Palestinian case by denying all claims of potential normalisation with Israel, saying it refuses to be associated with the Jewish state if it continues its human rights abuses and occupation of Arab lands.

US-Qatar relations

Doha and Washington’s relations have maintained strength over recent years despite the ongoing Gulf crisis.

In September, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani met in Washington in hopes of moving forward with naming Qatar as a major non-NATO ally.

Qatar is also the host to the largest US military base in the Middle East, and home to 8,000 US service members and Department of Defense civilian employees.

Read also: Qatari-US Strategic Dialogue: 2021 to be joint ‘Year of Culture’

More recently, the Trump administration has been keen to end the three-year-long Saudi-led blockade on Qatar by engaging in talks behind the scenes, albeit with no visible results yet.

Furthermore, both states have signed several memorandums last month, declaring 2021 as the Qatar-US Year of Culture.

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