Second squadron of F-35s is ‘an offer hard to refuse’By YAAKOV KATZ
defense officials say joint strike fighters was of critical importance for the security of the State of Israel.http://www.jpost.com/Israel/
Top IDF officers and Defense Ministry officials claimed Sunday that the arrival of a second squadron of F-35 joint strike fighters was of critical importance for the security of the State of Israel.
In an effort to convince the Netanyahu government to impose a three-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank, the Obama administration offered Israel last week a long list of security and diplomatic benefits, including 20 F-35s for free.
Israel signed a contract for 20 F-35s – a fifth-generation stealth fighter jet made by Lockheed Martin – in early October in a deal valued at $2.75 billion. Under the offer made to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his meeting last week with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Israel would receive a second, free squadron of the advanced fighter jet if it agrees to impose a three-month freeze on settlement construction.
The F-35 will be one of the most advanced fighter jets in the world and will enable Israel to phase out some of its older F-15 and F-16 models.
According to the IAF, the plane will significantly boost Israel’s deterrence in the Middle East and provide it with an edge over adversaries that operate advanced anti-aircraft systems, since it cannot be detected by existing radars.
The offer of a second squadron of F-35s was first made to Israel in early September, in talks which Defense Minister Ehud Barak led in Washington ahead of the expiration of the previous 10- month freeze on settlement construction, in a bid to get Israel to extend the freeze. At the time, Israel rejected the offer.
After the offer in September, the IDF established a team consisting of officers from the air force and the military’s Strategic Planning Division, which analyzed the effect the arrival of an additional squadron of F- 35s would have on Israel and its strategic standing in the Middle East.
“This is a very difficult offer to say no to,” a senior defense official said on Sunday, amid news that Netanyahu was working to obtain a majority in his cabinet to approve a new moratorium.
It is unclear when the additional squadron would arrive, if Israel accepts the US offer.
Delivery of the squadron Israel ordered last month is scheduled to begin sometime between 2016 and 2017.