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Bipartisan bill proposed to give Israel veto on US arms sales to Middle East

Legislation would require US president to consult with Jerusalem to ensure qualitative military edge concerns are settled; proposal comes ahead of planned sale of F-35s to UAE

In this August 5, 2019, photo released by the US Air Force, an F-35 fighter jet pilot and crew prepare for a mission at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. (Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury/US Air Force via AP)
In this August 5, 2019, photo released by the US Air Force, an F-35 fighter jet pilot and crew prepare for a mission at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. (Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury/US Air Force via AP)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A bipartisan bill introduced in the House of Representatives would enhance protections for Israel’s qualitative military edge to include an effective Israeli veto on US arms sales to the Middle East.

The bill “would require the President to consult with the Israeli government to ensure [qualitative military edge] concerns are settled” when it comes to arms sales to Middle Eastern countries, said the news release Friday announcing its introduction the previous day. The release came from the office of the bill’s lead sponsor, Illinois Democrat Rep. Brad Schneider.

Existing law already guarantees Israel a qualitative military edge in the Middle East, but Congress — not Israel — is the arbiter of whether an arms sale meets QME standards.

Most of the sponsors are Democrats, including a number of Jewish lawmakers, among them Schneider, Elaine Luria of Virginia, Max Rose of New York, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, and Ted Deutch and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

Democratic Illinois Representative Brad Schneider. (Courtesy/JTA)

Jewish Democrats expressed alarm after it was revealed that, parallel with the US-brokered normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, the Trump administration was negotiating the sale of state-of-the-art F-35 stealth combat jets to the UAE.

Israel opposes the sale.

AIPAC, the prominent Israel lobby, supports the new measure.

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