As the Palestinian people are crushed under the boot of a brutal Israeli military occupation and denied even the most fundamental basic human rights, while being subjected to some of the most repressive surveillance technologies on the planet, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is set to further enrich Israel’s lucrative weapons industry.
The UAE makes for an ideal security client because it’s an authoritarian regime with “deep pockets” that can make “quick decisions on arms purchases,” a source in the Israeli defense industry told Haaretz.
Curiously, this aspect of the shambolic Israel-UAE “peace deal”— a deliberate misnomer given neither country was at war with the other but had instead forged a close security alliance over the past decade— has remained absent in analyzing the motives of the respective actors.
The UAE’s “normalization” of ties with Israel is essentially driven by three motives: repaying the Trump administration an owed favor in the form of a perceived foreign policy victory on the eve of the US election; putting in place an insurance policy against Trump losing to his pro-Israel rival, former Vice President Joe Biden; and gaining access to Israeli weapons and repression technologies, alongside “special access” to restricted US arms.
“The more the Emirates become a friend of Israel, become a partner of Israel, become a regional ally of the United States, I think obviously that alters the threat assessment and could work out to the Emirates’ benefit [on future weapon sales],” said US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Friday.
Until now, the UAE is excluded from the United States most prized weapons systems and platforms because of a long-standing US policy that promises Israel a “qualitative military edge” over its Arab neighbors, a policy that every US president since Lyndon Johnson has reaffirmed and reiterated. The F-35 fighter jet, considered the most lethal combat warplane in the world, is one example of US military hardware the UAE is desperate to procure.
According to Ynet, the controversial “peace deal” included a “secret clause” allowing the UAE to buy the F-35 fighter jet.
According to a report by the Israeli news outlet Ynet, the controversial “peace deal” included a “secret clause” allowing the UAE to buy the F-35 fighter jet. This was quickly and subsequently confirmed by a New York Times article asserting: “American officials deny that the new push to sell the advanced weapons is a direct reward for the Emirati role in a diplomatic breakthrough … where the Emirates would become just the third Arab nation to recognize Israel. In exchange, Israel [would] suspend annexation of occupied West Bank territory.”
With an annual military budget of US$23 billion, the UAE has become the United States’ third largest consumer of arms, behind Saudi Arabia and Australia. A US-based think tank concluded the UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, had procured US$68.2 billion worth of US manufactured arms, weapons systems, and military training since the start of their war in Yemen five years ago.
In fact, the UAE purchased more weaponry in the four years before 2010 than Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman combined, including dozens of F-16 fighters, Apache combat helicopters, and French Mirage jets.
“We have created a little Frankenstein” is how Tamara Coffman Wittes, a former State Department official, described UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) to The New York Times.
“We have created a little Frankenstein.”
With Trump trailing Biden by double digit points and with fewer than 80 days to go until Election Day, the UAE fears the sun is setting on this period of unfettered arms deals it has long enjoyed under multiple US administrations, but particularly during Trump’s first term. The current president has consistently blocked efforts by lawmakers to condition arms sales to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia on ending the war in Yemen and improving their respective human rights track records.
Biden, with a growing anti-Arab Gulf monarchy constituency behind him within the ranks of the Democratic Party, has promised to end US military involvement in Yemen, return to the negotiating table with Iran, and end no-strings-attached arms deals to the Middle East.
Both Democrats and Republican lawmakers have expressed criticism of the Trump administration after a US government watchdog report revealed the State Department did not fully evaluate the risk of civilian casualties in Yemen when it pushed through a huge bundle of weapons to the UAE and Saudi Arabia in 2019. In fact, the administration took deliberate measures to bypass congressional review by dividing sales of controversial arms into smaller packages.
In this light, it’s easy to see why the UAE might see Israel as a perfect stand-in partner to offset any reduction in arms deals it’s likely to experience under a Biden administration.
While Israel is publicly denying the normalization of bilateral ties will lead to the UAE procuring weapons and defense technologies that “could tip the balance,” as stated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week, the fact remains Israel has long been covertly funneling surveillance technology, drones, reconnaissance planes, and cyber hacking technologies to the UAE via prominent Israeli businessmen.
Israel has long been covertly funneling surveillance technology, drones, reconnaissance planes, and cyber hacking technologies to the UAE.
Israel’s now out in the open relationship with the UAE is built on a mutual fear of Iran and political Islamic groups. Thus the government in Abu Dhabi will now want everything that can help defend itself from Iranian missiles and the revolutionary and anti-monarchical politics of the Muslim Brotherhood. In particular, the UAE seeks Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system and repression management technologies that will allow it to track and target dissidents and critics.
As is patently obvious, the UAE’s normalization of Israel is not only motivated by helping the UAE friendly governments in Washington DC and Tel Aviv score cheap political points, but also about sating its unquenchable thirst for weapons and surveillance technology.
The Palestinian people didn’t even warrant an afterthought!