Democratic senators introduce bill to constrain sale of top US fighter jets - F-35s - to UAE

NEW YORK, Oct 23 (APP): Two Democratic senators have introduced a bill aimed at constraining the Trump administration’s effort to sell super-sophisticated F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates, as part of a declared congressional bid to secure US-backed Israel’s military advantage in the region.

The bill, introduced by Senators Bob Menendez and Dianne Feinstein on Oct 20 , would require the administration certify that Israel’s military advantage in the region would not be jeopardized before it can move forward with selling the United States’ most advanced military aircraft to other Middle Eastern countries.

“Ensuring that the United States and its crucial partner in the Middle East, Israel, maintain their critical qualitative military advantages over all potential adversaries is enshrined in law and must be one of the highest priorities of any president and Congress; this rush to close an F-35 deal by President Trump before the end of his term could well undermine that objective,” Senator Menendez, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement issued in Washington.

“This rush to close an F-35 deal by President Donald Trump before the end of his term could well undermine that objective,” he added.

Under Menendez and Feinstein’s bill, Washington would also have to certify that in 180 days and every year for 10 years the Israel’s qualitative military edge has not been undermined after the delivery of the aircraft.

“Congress has an obligation to make sure that the most sophisticated US weaponry be limited to our use and that of our most trusted allies,” Ms. Feinstein said in a statement.

“That’s why this legislation places significant limits on this or any future administration’s ability to sell the F-35 aircraft to the Middle East, where it could threaten our interests and Israel’s military edge in the region,” she added.

The Trump administration has been working to advance Abu Dhabi’s longstanding request to buy F-35s after the UAE and Israel signed a normalization agreement at the White House last month.

But lawmakers in both parties have expressed concern that selling the UAE F-35s would run afoul of a U.S. commitment that is enshrined in law to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”