Israeli defense officials have confirmed that Jerusalem has asked senior American officials to consider removing obstacles hindering the sale of F-22 fighter jets to the Israeli Air Force to preserve its air superiority following the agreement of the United States to sell the F-35s to the UAE.
Senior Israeli defense officials say the purported concealment of the sale of F-35 jets to the UAE complicated a possible sale to Israel of the world’s most advanced fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, as well as other advanced equipment.
The defense officials refused to comment on the issue officially.
On Friday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s assent to the sale of F-35s to the UAE was not part of the peace agreement signed between it and Israel in Washington last month, and that it was only provided in the course of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s talks with the Pentagon last week. In a statement of his own, however, Gantz claimed that negotiations on the arms sale to the UAE were known to some Israeli officials, but were kept hidden from him and from Israel’s security establishment.
Defense officials said the purchase by Israel of the F-22 is not currently on the table – but they declined to elaborate further. Senior officials said that if the defense establishment had known that the United States was in talks with Israel and the Emirates about the normalization of relations between the two, they would have taken advantage of the opportunity and engaged in negotiations over weapons systems to extend Israel’s military assistance agreement with the United States – which currently expires in 2028 – or to draft a new and improved agreement.
In the latest meetings between Israeli and American defense officials, the Israeli representatives raised the possibility of buying the F-22. This was not the first time that Israel has expressed interest in purchasing the fighter, as have other countries, but all of the foreign purchasers have been turned down.
The F-22 is the most advanced fighter in the world in terms of maneuverability, armament and range. In 2011, when funding for it ended, the United States shut down its F-22 production line, and its sale to foreign militaries was banned by federal law – in part over concern that the planes’ advanced technology would leak out to hostile countries.
Senior Israeli defense officials say the purchase of the world’s most advanced air superiority fighter would help preserve Israel’s quantitative military edge in the region.
Read more: haaretz