Defense Minister Gantz heads to Washington

Gantz will fly on a charter flight with a small team including his military secretary, the Defense Ministry Chief of Staff and the head of the ministry's political-security division.

Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz flew to Washington on Monday night to meet with US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
Gantz and a small team of ministry officials are set to discuss maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME), procurement, international policy regarding Iran, including halting Tehran’s military aspirations in the region, and Israel-US security cooperation.
Gantz  and his entourage will return on Thursday morning. While he is away, Michael Biton (Blue and White), minister in the Defense Ministry for social and civil affairs, will take his place.
The meeting with Esper comes as Israel is set to ask for compensation from Washington should a sale of advanced F-35 stealth fighters be made to the United Arab Emirates following normalization of ties.
Israel will retain its qualitative military edge in the region regardless of any deals, Gantz said in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post.
“QME is a critical aspect of Israel’s security,” he said. Israel’s status would not be at risk, and security interests would be maintained, he added.
“We also make deals with the United States, and we can also get more platforms and systems,” Gantz said. “This is not a one-sided deal.”
There would be a demand for compensation in the event that an arms deal were to be signed between Washington and Abu Dhabi, he suggested.
The possible sale of F-35s was an American prerogative, Gantz told reporters in a briefing ahead of Rosh Hashanah.
“I do not remember one moment in history when the US wanted to sell certain weapons and wasn’t successful in doing so,” he said.
“We have a good working relationship with the US to ensure Israel’s qualitative military advantage,” he added.
Gantz praised the normalization deal, saying the UAE and Bahrain were two countries “whom we’ve never fought and who have never fought us, not even through proxies.” Nevertheless, the proposed sale of the stealth fighters was a “serious matter,” he said.
Following the announcement of  normalization of ties, Gantz spoke to Esper by phone about it.
“Both leaders exchanged views on how recent developments will advance shared US-Israeli defense priorities, and committed to maintaining an open dialogue about potential avenues for cooperation,” the US Department of Defense said in a statement.