Rep. Meeks expresses ‘absolute’ opposition to sale of F-35 jets to UAE

‘I hope that the UAE did not agree to recognize Israel thinking that will enhance their opportunities to get these planes’

Bebeto Matthews/AP

Congressman Gregory Meeks, D-NY, Wednesday, May 22, 2019, at LaGuardia Community College in New York.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), one of several legislators vying to succeed Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) as chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Thursday he is “absolutely opposed” to the sale of F-35 jets to the United Arab Emirates.

“I am absolutely opposed to that sale because we don’t know what’s happening in the future. I’ve seen it happen before,” Meeks said in a Zoom call hosted by Democratic Majority for Israel, as part of a series of events with committee members who are jockeying for the chairmanship. “I think that it violates Israel’s strategic interest and safety.” 

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that the Trump administration is hoping to finalize a deal on the sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets in time for UAE National Day on December 2. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told The Jerusalem Post this week that even if the sale is completed, “the delivery time is probably another six or seven years from now.”

Meeks stressed that while he welcomes the Trump administration’s push for normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries, “they should not be a vehicle for the ability for some of them to purchase F-35 [jets] which would certainly jeopardize Israel’s essential security.” 

“I hope that the UAE did not agree to recognize Israel thinking that that will enhance their opportunities to get these planes,” Meeks continued. “I hope that they’re doing it for the right reasons. Time will tell. But I’m absolutely opposed to the sale. I hope that it wasn’t for the political convenience of the president. I hope that it’s for really trying to get and have peace in the region.” 

Meeks (D-NY) also pushed back against Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA)’s suggestion that the New York Democrat was wavering in his commitment to U.S military assistance to Israel. Last month, The Times of Israel reported that all the candidates for the post — Meeks, Sherman and Rep. Joaquín Castro (D-TX) — had expressed support for a measure that would prohibit Israel from using U.S. military assistance to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank. 

On the DMFI call, Meeks said the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding signed between Israel and the Obama administration in 2016 “is absolute, and 100%, and I firmly believe that that money has to be utilized and will be utilized to continue for the defense of Israel.” Meeks noted that his statement was made “in the context of annexation,” and that he thinks “the United States needs to have a strong voice to push back against the talk by the prime minister in regard to annexation.”

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