Israel received three F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States in April – a new generation of “near-invisible” planes that critics fear will free the country’s hand to launch air strikes and spying operations against neighbouring states undetected.
In total, Israel has bought 50 F-35s from manufacturer Lockheed Martin, and claims it will have the first squadron combat-ready before the end of the year.
Israel is the first country outside the US to be allowed access to the warplane, said to be the most expensive ever developed.
Analysts have noted that, although the jet comes with a huge price tag – each plane costs around $110m – US taxpayers will be footing the bill.
Israel’s fleet of F-35s are to be financed out of US military aid. The annual $3bn Israel receives from Washington will rise next year to $3.8bn, under a 10-year deal agreed by Barack Obama shortly before he stepped down as US president.
“Israel would never have been able to build its military might without the US – and now it will have even greater freedom to wreak suffering across the region,” Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Palestinian National Initiative party, told Al Jazeera. “The US has turned a blind eye as Israel has used its advanced weapons against Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and elsewhere.”