Citing concern for Israel’s security, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced a bill on April 16 that would require the president to justify the sale of “mission-critical” U.S. military systems such as the F-35 fighter to other countries.
The “Secure F-35 Exports Act of 2021” was introduced after the Biden administration reported its decision to proceed with the sale of $23 billion in weapons, including the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter jet and advanced armed drones, to the United Arab Emirates—a deal that was originally negotiated under the Trump administration.
The Biden administration originally halted the sale pending a review.
According to a news release from Feinstein’s office, the act would require the president to provide the appropriate congressional committees with detailed certifications to show that U.S. aircraft technology and Israel’s security are protected before such sales.
“Congress has an obligation to uphold U.S. policy and ensure that weapons sales to foreign governments don’t undermine Israel’s military edge. Our bill achieves that goal by restricting sales of the F-35—our most sophisticated aircraft—until the administration certifies to Congress that the sale complies with that objective,” Feinstein said in the release.
A presidential report is not needed for an F-35 sale to members of NATO, Israel, Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The bill also requires security measures to be in place and that the countries receiving the F-35 and subsequent aircraft not have a record of providing America weapons, directly or indirectly, to armed militias fighting the United States or Israel, conduct surveillance on U.S. citizens or enable the violation of human rights.
Menendez noted that he remained concerned with the implications of selling the nation’s most advanced military aircraft on national security, technology interests and regional stability, including the legal requirement to maintain Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.
“But if the administration has decided to proceed with this Trump-era deal, then we must enact protections to ensure the incredibly sensitive technology of these aircraft is not compromised by powers hostile to the United States, including making sure the UAE pulls back from its burgeoning relationship with China and other U.S. competitors,” he said. “This legislation lays out the types of assurances and commitments the United States must have to safeguard this sale.”
The original agreement was made as part of negotiations for the Abraham Accords last year that normalized relations between the UAE and Israel.