Israel secretly lobbied the US to block Turkey from purchasing its F-35 fighter jets in an effort to maintain its military edge in the region, according to Israeli media reports.
Tel Aviv began urging the White House to drop Ankara from its F-35 program soon after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan approved the purchase of the S-400 missile defence system from Russia, Israeli Channel 12 reported yesterday.
“It put pressure on Washington to cancel the sale of advanced aircraft to Turkey,” it said.
Turkey was suspended from the F-35 program in July, with the US administration claiming the Russian S-400 would compromise the security of its F-35 jets. Turkey denies the claim, adding that for years it tried unsuccessfully to buy US Patriot missile defence before it turned to the S-400s.
While US President Donald Trump has resisted penalising Turkey over the S-400 issue, there has been pressure from Congress as well as his own administration to take measures against Turkey, including sanctions.
In the last two years, Israel started purchasing F-35s from the US, making it the only country in Middle East to own this type of fighter jet.
The Israeli government has signed agreements with US defence contractor Lockheed Martin to purchase at least 50 F-35 aircraft using US aid.
The aircraft will be delivered in batches of twos and threes through 2024.