Photo Credit: IMOD / Ministry of Defense / Flash 90
Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon inspects the F-35 war plane production line at Lockheed Martin production facility in Texas, USA on October 10, 2013.

Israel’s cabinet voted Sunday to approve a reduced order to purchase 14 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter jets.

The government has been discussing the issue of how many of the warplanes to buy since January.

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Also approved was an option to order another 17 of the F-35s in 2017.

The original deal approved by U.S. and Israeli defense chiefs in October 2014 included the purchase of 50 of the warplanes for two squadrons, with two of the jets to be used in experiments by the IAF.

Since then, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel tendered his resignation to President Barack Obama, although he agreed to remain at his post until a replacement is found and confirmed by the Senate.

And although Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon remains in his position, Israel’s entire government coalition is likely to change due to what appears to be a collection of irreconcilable differences leading the country to early elections.

Israel already had ordered 19 F-35s in 2010 for $2.75 billion, which are due to arrive in December 2016.

This week’s decision brings the total number of planes purchased to 33 instead of the original 50 agreed upon, all of which were to be acquired with U.S. military aid.

Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz was particularly opposed to the purchase, questioning the need for the plane due to manufacturing setbacks in the past. The high cost of the fighter jet was another factor raised by Steinitz and several others, who expressed belief there were better ways to spend their military dollars.

In the United States, the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all grounded their F-35 squadrons on July 3 after a fire in the rear of a plane forced a pilot to abandon takeoff at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

However, South Korea purchased 40 of the aircraft for its F-X fighter acquisition program in September, to be delivered starting in 2018. The contract, worth $7.1 billion, marked the country’s biggest weapons deal.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.

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