Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again denied reports he gave the nod to US arms sales to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Netanyahu's office scotched a New York Times report that he gave the green light to US sales of high-tech weaponry to the Persian Gulf monarchy as part of talks towards August's peace agreement, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Friday.
"Repeating a false allegation against Prime Minister Netanyahu does not make it true," their statement said. "At no point in talks with the United States leading to the historic breakthrough with the United Arab Emirates on August 13, did the Prime Minister give Israel's consent to the sale of advanced weapons to the Emirates."
The UAE will reportedly buy F-35 Lightning II stealth attack jets, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft and MQ-9 Reaper armed drones from the US.
The New York Times quoted academic Hussein Ibish from the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, who claimed officials from the US, Israel and UAE had all told him Netanyahu had privately approved the arms sales while publicly opposing them.
“I’ve heard it from parties on all three sides that he gave a green light on this,” Ibish said, adding that the Israeli leader had earlier tipped the wink to the US and UAE that "there would not be substantive and categorical opposition.”
He said Emirati diplomats were surprised when Netanyahu publicly denounced the arms deal and cancelled a trilateral meeting at the UN on August 21 in return.
But Ibish said they later accepted reassurances that the sale would go ahead. "They’ve come to understand there’s a lot of Kabuki theatre in all this," he said.
Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Demer also denied the prime minister had given the go-ahead for the arms deal and insisted US President Donald Trump "is fully committed to maintaining” Israel’s military hegemony in the Middle East.
The August peace agreement normalised relations between the UAE and Israel in return for a freeze on Tel Aviv's plans to annex large parts of the occupied Palestinian Territories under Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century." The Palestinian Fatah party called the deal "treason."