A pair of Democratic senators has introduced a bill aimed at constraining the Trump administration’s effort to sell F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates.
The bill, introduced Tuesday, would require the administration certify that Israel’s military advantage in the region would not be jeopardized before it can move forward with selling the United States’ most advanced military aircraft to other Middle Eastern countries.
“Ensuring that the United States and its crucial partner in the Middle East, Israel, maintain their critical qualitative military advantages over all potential adversaries is enshrined in law and must be one of the highest priorities of any president and Congress; this rush to close an F-35 deal by President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE before the end of his term could well undermine that objective,” Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezDems block Cruz's Nord Stream 2 sanctions bill Overnight Defense & National Security — Differences remain between NATO, Russia Senate Democrats unveil bill sanctioning Russia over Ukraine MORE (D-N.J.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
Menendez introduced the bill, dubbed the “Secure F-35 Exports Act,” alongside Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinOvernight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Eight senators ask Biden to reverse course on Trump-era solar tariffs MORE (D-Calif.).
The Trump administration has been working to advance Abu Dhabi’s longstanding request to buy F-35s after the UAE and Israel signed a normalization agreement at the White House last month.
Reuters reported last month that Washington and Abu Dhabi hope to have an initial deal on the F-35s by early December.
But lawmakers in both parties have expressed concern that selling the UAE F-35s would run afoul of a U.S. commitment that is enshrined in law to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”
Under Menendez and Feinstein’s bill, before approving a sale, the administration would have to certify to Congress that selling the F-35 to any Middle East country besides Israel would not compromise Israel’s qualitative military edge.
The administration would also have to make the certification before the aircraft are actually delivered. After delivery, the administration would have to certify in 180 days and every year for 10 years that Israel's qualitative military edge has not been undermined.
The bill would also require the administration report to Congress on any threats to U.S. security that could arise from selling the F-35 to countries that are not NATO members or Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea or New Zealand.
“Congress has an obligation to make sure that the most sophisticated U.S. weaponry be limited to our use and that of our most trusted allies,” Feinstein said in a statement. “That’s why this legislation places significant limits on this or any future administration’s ability to sell the F-35 aircraft to the Middle East, where it could threaten our interests and Israel’s military edge in the region.”