Aug 31, 2020 - World

Kushner tries to smooth over F-35 dispute in visits to Israel and UAE

Kushner and O'Brien on board the El Al flight from Israel to the UAE. Photo: Nir Elias/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plan to discuss the pending sale of F-35 fighter jets by the U.S. to the UAE, Jared Kushner told reporters on board the first commercial flight from Israel to the UAE, which landed in Abu Dhabi this morning.

Why it matters: The White House has hailed the normalization deal it brokered between Israel and the UAE as a breakthrough for the region — but shortly after the announcement, a major disagreement emerged over the UAE's desire to acquire the F-35.

Behind the scenes: Emirati officials considered Netanyahu's public opposition to the deal a violation of the understandings they had reached, and they canceled a ceremonial meeting at the UN to show their displeasure.

The backstory: The U.S. has committed to ensuring the regional military superiority of Israel, which is the only country in the region to possess the F-35.

  • Kushner and national security adviser Robert O'Brien discussed the issue with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Jerusalem on Sunday.
  • On Monday's flight, Kushner said Netanyahu has full confidence that Trump will do everything he can to ensure Israel can maintain its qualitative military edge.
  • Kushner added that the U.S. has a 30-year security relationship with the UAE, which it intends to enhance while bringing Israel into their security dialogue. "I know Netanyahu sees the great opportunity that was created here," he said.

The latest: In a press conference after landing in Abu Dhabi, Kushner said he was confident the U.S. could both deepen its security relationship with the UAE and preserve Israel's qualitative military edge.

What to watch: Gantz said publicly after Sunday's meeting that he thinks the U.S. and Israel can find a way to maintain Israel's military superiority even if the deal moves forward.

Go deeper