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Democrats Decry State Department’s Dash for Decision on Defense Deal

The State Department’s announcement of its plans to push ahead with the sale of 50 F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates is drawing opposition both on Capitol Hill and in some circles in Jerusalem. On Thursday it was revealed that Congress would not have its informal – but standard – 40 days to review the deal, and instead would be allowed only several days to decide whether to authorize or block the transaction, because of the Trump Administration’s desire to pass it before the UAE’s December 2 National Day. Democratic lawmakers expressed their frustration with the rushed process, as Representative Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that “rushing these sales is not in anyone’s interest,” while Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated that “recklessly accelerating the timeline around a reportedly artificial deadline precludes sufficient consideration.” In Israel, government officials continue to criticize Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s conduct surrounding the deal. The prime minister is reported to have secretly promised Washington in August that he would not oppose the sale of the state-of-the-art planes to the UAE, in return for Abu Dhabi’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel. This, without receiving assurances that Israel’s qualitative military edge would be maintained and without consulting or notifying military and defense officials. According to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, only his recent efforts and meetings with American counterpart Mark Esper secured Israel’s handsome compensation for the deal.