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Trump says he has ‘absolutely no problem’ with selling F-35s to UAE

Ahead of signing of peace accord in Washington, US leader also claims many other countries will be normalizing ties, castigates Palestinians as ‘very difficult to deal with’

President Donald Trump greets the Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, not pictured, at the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)
President Donald Trump greets the Bahrain Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, not pictured, at the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP/Alex Brandon)

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he has “absolutely no problem” with selling advanced F-35 fighters to the United Arab Emirates, a sale that has been reported to be part of Abu Dhabi’s reasoning for normalizing relations with Israel.

Media reports have indicated Israel gave either explicit or tacit approval for the sale of the stealth fighters to seal the accord with the UAE, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly denied this.

Ahead of the landmark signing ceremony of Israel’s normalization deals with the UAE and Bahrain at the White House Tuesday, Trump was asked during an interview with Fox News whether the UAE would be receiving advanced US weaponry in the near future.

“They’re very wealthy countries for the most part. Some are extraordinarily [wealthy] like the UAE, and they would like to buy some fighter jets and I personally would have no problem with it,” Trump said.

“Some people do,” Trump noted. “They say well maybe they… go to war.”

ILLUSTRATIVE — In this Aug. 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/U.S. Air Force via AP)

But Trump was adamant that Abu Dhabi could be trusted. “I know the leader very well, Mohammed,” he said, referring to de facto leader of the country, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. “I would have no problem in selling them the F-35. I would have absolutely no problem. I view it as an asset, not a liability.”

Besides, he added, “You know what I’ve learned about military equipment? You sell it today and it’s obsolete tomorrow. ”

A New York Times report, citing unnamed sources involved in the talks, claimed that along with the ultra-advanced jets and Reaper drones, the emerging arms deal also includes radar-blocking EA-18G Growler jets, which could erode the effectiveness of Israel’s air defense capabilities and put the UAE at a considerable military advantage.

The US has traditionally been committed to protecting Israel’s military edge in the region. Some fear the planes could be passed to another country or be used against Israel by Abu Dhabi should the region’s complicated network of alliances and enemies shift significantly.

Abu Dhabi has indicated that while there is no direct link between the diplomatic initiative and the arms sales, normalization with Israel should make it easier to push the deal through.

UAE delegates wave to the departing El Al plane at the end of Israel-UAE normalization talks in Abu Dhabi, September 1, 2020. (El Al spokesperson’s office)

Trump was ebullient over the new accords, telling Fox, “Everyone said this couldn’t happen.”

The US leader asserted: “We have many other [countries] going to be coming in over a short period of time. And the Palestinians will ultimately come in too. And you’re going to have peace in the Middle East, without being stupid and shooting everybody and killing everybody and having blood all over the sand.”

He said the Palestinians would soon have no choice but to come to the table as “all the people that give them lots of money are coming into the deal.”

He added that the Palestinians were “very difficult to deal with” and called US financial support over the decades “almost like hostage type money, it was bribe money and it was foolish.”

Trump halted all aid to the Palestinian Authority after Ramallah cut ties with Washington over its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017 and the relocation of the US embassy there.

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