Netanyahu, Gantz spar over possible defense pact with US

Netanyahu and Trump discussed pact and Jordan Valley annexation in phone call.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Israel Resilience party leader Benny Gantz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White head Benny Gantz sparred over the wisdom of a security pact with the United States, something that Netanyahu said was among the things Israel used to “dream about.”
Speaking at a cornerstone-laying ceremony for 12 new factories in Ashkelon, Netanyahu said that this was among the topics he discussed with US President Donald Trump during a telephone conversation on Sunday.
Netanyahu characterized this conversation with Trump as “very important” for the country’s security.
In addition to Iran, he said, “we also spoke at length about the historic opportunities that we will have in the coming months – among them, the Jordan Valley as the recognized eastern border of the State of Israel as well as a defensive alliance with the US.”
Netanyahu said these were things that “we could only dream about, but which now we have the opportunity to implement.”
For this reason, he said, it was important to form a unity government with Gantz.
Netanyahu vowed before the election in September that he would annex the Jordan Valley.
Gantz addressed the issues later in the day, linking them to the country’s current political paralysis.
“Our commitment to the Jordan Valley, as the security barrier along our eastern border, is not related to the seating arrangements around the government table, but rather for the security of the State of Israel,” Gantz said at the Blue and White faction meeting.
Regarding the security pact, Gantz said that his party “does not support any agreement that will limit operations undertaken by the State of Israel or the ability of the IDF to defend itself against the threats it faces. I have a strong appreciation for our strategic relationship with the United States, our great ally with whom we share deeply rooted values and common interests. But there arise serious concerns that a prime minister preoccupied by his own affairs may permit the limitation of our security forces’ freedom of action, in clear contradiction to the position held by our security mechanisms for decades.”
Israel’s security establishment has long opposed a formal defense pact with the US, concerned that it will handcuff Israel and limit its ability to act independently against the threats the country faces.
Those like Netanyahu who are in favor of such a pact argue that it will be a narrow one focused on the Iranian threat, and will be worded in such a way to ensure that Israel will still retain operational independence.
Netanyahu’s visit to Ashkelon was kept a secret and embargoed until after it was over, a routine followed whenever the prime minister goes to areas – such as border areas or Judea and Samaria – where there is concern that prior knowledge of a scheduled visit may pose a security risk.
Ashkelon has been battered by rockets fired from the Gaza Strip, and Netanyahu said that there would be no long-term agreement regarding Gaza unless the “trickle” of rocket ceases.
“We will put an end to it,” he said. “That is our policy. We are doing this very aggressively, and you have seen our actions over the last few weeks.”
Netanyahu said that Israel has “operational surprises” beyond what has already been seen.
“We will not tolerate this trickle and will work to stop it,” he said.