At Israel’s Nevatim Air Base this evening, Defense Secretary Ash Carter helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and hundreds of observers celebrate the arrival of two F-35A Lightning II jet fighters the United States sent to one of its most important Middle East allies.
The fighters are the first of 50 aircraft that will help build the future of the Israeli air force, Carter said, as part of a memorandum of understanding signed this year in which the United States pledged an unprecedented $38 billion in security assistance over the next 10 years.
“This evening we’re celebrating the remarkable progress of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship, and also of an [Israeli] air force that began by flying leftover World War II planes and is now flying the most advanced aircraft in history,” the secretary said.
First in the Region
As of today, Carter added, “Israel is our first and only friend in the region that’s flying F-35s. And it’s my honor to be here marking the delivery of these planes … to America’s closest friend and ally in the region.”
Netanyahu thanked Carter for celebrating the “important milestone” with Israeli leaders.
“It’s a sign of your personal friendship, your personal commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance and … I wish to thank as well, on behalf of all the people of Israel, President [Barack] Obama, the American Congress and the American people,” Netanyahu said.
“Israel is your best and your most reliable ally in the Middle East — in my opinion beyond the Middle East — we will always remain so,” he added.
The Israelis call the F-35s “Adir,” which in Hebrew means “the mighty one.” Carter called this an “apt name for aircraft that represent the full force of military might.”
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