Israel would oppose any U.S. F-35 sale to Qatar, Israeli minister says
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel would refuse to sell advanced F-35 fighter jets in the US to Qatar, the Israeli intelligence minister said Sunday, citing the need to maintain Israel's military superiority in the region.
Intelligence Secretary Eli Cohen commented on a Reuters report that Qatar - whose Iran has problems with Israel - Washington made a formal request to buy the Lockheed Martin Corp stealth jet. have asked.
The United States is in consultation with Israel about the proposed sale of advanced weapons to other countries in the region in order to maintain Israel's "qualitative military advantage". Some of these sales exceeded Israeli objections.
When asked if Israel would refuse to sell F-35s to Qatar, Cohen told Army Radio, "The answer is yes. Our security and military superiority in the region are the most important things to us. Our region still isn't become Switzerland. "
Qatar's F-35 application follows an August deal in which Washington agreed to consider approving the United Arab Emirates to purchase the jets under a US-brokered agreement to normalize relations between Israel and this Gulf power .
Israel, which bought and used the F-35, has been uncomfortable about the UAE getting the fighter jet as well - although the two countries have shared concerns about the threats posed by Iran.
In contrast, Qatar has ties with Iran and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, against which Israel waged three wars in the Gaza Strip.
But Qatar has also donated hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Gaza, payouts that Israel has facilitated in hopes of sparking yet another conflict in the impoverished enclave.
This intervention has led some Israeli officials to predict that Qatar could also establish formal ties with Israel. Doha ruled this out in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle, William Maclean)
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