Tel Aviv fumes over US-KSA arm deal

Israel Sunday lambasted the multi-billion arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the United States, struck in Riyadh on Saturday as Israeli officials fear the future arms acquisition may put Saudi Arabia in a more comfortable power position in the region at the expense of Israel.

President Trump and King Salman Saturday inked a $110 billion arms deal, which could stretch out to $380 billion over ten years.

The deal deemed the largest ever between the US and Saudi Arabia will equip the Saudi kingdom with advanced air defense systems, ships, helicopters, intelligence-gathering aircraft, tanks, artillery and cybersecurity systems.

Israel fears the deal will weaken its defense and requests that Washington preserves Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME).

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz harshly laid into the agreement arguing that “Saudi Arabia is a hostile country” and the move puts Israel under threat.

“[Saudi Arabia] is not a country that we have diplomatic relations with… it is still a hostile country and nobody knows what the future holds,” Steinitz said, according to AFP.

Ayoob Kara, another close aid of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also criticised the deal arguing that despite the improving ties between Israel and Sunni Muslim states like Saudi Arabia, there is “still a risk to Israel’s military superiority”, the Times of Israel reports.

Kara further noted that he would discuss the issue with Netanyahu in coming cabinet meetings.

Other Israeli experts have downplayed the deal as they argued that the US has always considered Israel military advantage over that of Arab countries.

Yaakov Amidror, former national security adviser to the prime minister notes that “Israel has no reason to worry about the massive Saudi-US arms deals, arguing that it is not new for Washington to provide Riyadh with advanced weaponry systems.”

“It does not change the balance [of power] in the Middle East,” Amidror said.

“The US administration is very sensitive about keeping Israel’s military edge. That was the case for previous US administrations, and I am sure it’s also true for the current administration,” he said.

The statements were made on the eve of the US President’s visit to Israel this Monday. It is the second leg of his first international tour, which will take him to the Vatican as well.  Trump will meet with the Israeli Premier and also with the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem in a move to revive moribund peace talks.

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