Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper on Tuesday promised Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz that the United States would maintain Israel's qualitative edge in the Middle East.
The US is expected to sell its most advanced jet yet, the F-35, to the UAE, a move Israel has been vehemently opposing. To retain Israel’s qualitative edge, the US could make the F-35 stealth fighter visible to Israeli radar systems. Also, these jets could be built in a way that Israeli ones would still be superior.
Esper stressed that Israel is America's most important strategic partner in the Middle East. "Our partnership is built over generations based on shared values, shared interests and shared concerns," Esper said.
"As I always say, we have no other United States, nor do you have any other Israel," Gantz said. "We will make sure together, to keep those bonds active and close to one another. It has to do with (qualitative military edge). But it also has to do with lots of cooperation that we have, we always say it is in our moral interest to share with you everything we possibly can. And we will continue those relations into the future."
Israel, a small nation, relies on its US partners to get an extra edge to survive. To maintain Qualitative Military Edge or QME, it has been blocking sale of high-end weapons to other states in the turbulent Middle East, most notably, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
US President, when prodded with the F-35 sales question earlier this month, said, “I would have no problem in selling them the F-35, I would have absolutely no problem.”
Maj Gen (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former Director of Intelligence & former Deputy Commander of Israeli Air Force, had tweeted in August: “It is important to remember that Abu Dhabi seeks to acquire very sophisticated weapons from the United States. It is important that Israel involves itself in the process if it will result in the reduction of Israel’s QME.”
On September 17, Israeli publication Calcalist reported there is a strong chance that the wings for the UAE’s F-35 fleet could be produced by Israel Aerospace Industries.