Israel plays down possible Biden administration review of arms for UAE

January 28, 2021 10:41 AM EST

FILE PHOTO: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement at the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel with the Alternate PM and Defence Minister Benny Gantz July 27 2020. Tal Shahar/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

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JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli leaders played down on Thursday a possible Biden administration review of U.S. arms sales to the United Arab Emirates that girded the Gulf power's rapprochement with Israel.

Washington said on Wednesday it had temporarily paused some pending arms sales to U.S. allies. The Trump administration, having brokered formal Israel-UAE ties in September, approved a first sale of F-35 warplanes and other weaponry for Abu Dhabi.

Reviews of this sort are typical after a U.S. presidential handover. The UAE said it had anticipated the move and would work closely with the Biden administration.

Israel is the only country in the region to have the F-35. After initially voicing misgivings at its sale to the UAE, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz relented amid Trump administration assurances that Israeli military superiority would be preserved.

Asked by reporters if the review might set back Israel's efforts to build up relations with the UAE and other Arab countries, Netanyahu said: "I don't think so. I think we have passed the point of no-return."

"Everyone understands that there are huge advantages here. It's peace in exchange for peace ... I think it'll move ahead."

Gantz described the review as "routine".

Interviewed by Ynet TV, Gantz said he would speak to his U.S. counterpart, Lloyd Austin, on Thursday but did not elaborate.

(Writing by Dan Williams, Editing by William Maclean)

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