To convince Israel and its supporters in Congress that the White House truly “has its back” with respect to threats posed by Iran, US President Barack Obama and top Cabinet officials have repeatedly flagged the fact that Israel is the exclusive regional recipient of the F-35, America’s premier stealth strike fighter.
“Indeed, Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to which the United States has sold this fifth-generation aircraft, ” Obama wrote in a letter last month to Rep. Jerold Nadler, a New York democrat representing the largest Jewish district in the country.
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Some military and political leaders in Israel are pushing to make that regional exclusivity permanent.
Earlier this month, seeking to sway support in Congress for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry used nearly identical language as Obama.
In a Sept. 2 letter to lawmakers, Kerry cited F-35s to Israel as a key manifestation of the administration’s commitment to preserve Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge (QME) against regional foes.
“Israel’s first F-35 aircraft will be delivered in 2016, making it the only country in the region with a US fifth-generation fighter aircraft, ” Kerry wrote.
And at an Israeli Independence Day celebration last May, Vice President Joe Biden told hundreds gathered at the Israeli Embassy in Washington to thunderous applause: “Next year, we’ll deliver to Israel the F-35, our finest, making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft. No other.”