Gantz 'concerned' about maintaining Israel’s advantage in region

Engel: It is inevitable that the Saudis will come to the table

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seen addressing The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. (photo credit: LIOR LEV)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is seen addressing The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.
(photo credit: LIOR LEV)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz is concerned about Israel maintaining its qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East after the US sells arms to the United Arab Emirates, he said Thursday at The Jerusalem Post Annual Conference.
Gantz was interviewed by Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Yaakov Katz earlier this week before leaving for the US for a meeting with Defense Secretary Mark Esper. “We must make sure our QME stays way ahead of other countries,” he said then.
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On Thursday, Gantz praised the agreements Israel reached with the UAE and Bahrain, calling their impact on Iran “a paradigm shift.”
“It signals to Iran that it is facing a whole block of moderate countries, and that is a great advantage,” he said.
Asked whether he was concerned about the future of bipartisan relations between Israel and the US, Gantz said for him, bipartisan support was like a religion.
“The bipartisan relationship is bigger than us and more important than us,” he said. “It is stronger than any government in Israel or the US.”
Also at the conference, Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was concerned over news that the US plans to sell F-35s to the UAE. He said he hopes more Arab countries will normalize relations with Israel.
Addressing the possibility that Saudi Arabia might normalize ties with Israel, Engel said: “I think it is inevitable that the Saudis will come to the table.”
Regarding the possible sale of F-35s to the UAE, he said: “I’m concerned about it because once you lose that qualitative military edge, it’s a slippery slope. You need to work with these countries; they are our allies, and they are potential allies to Israel. But we just cannot do anything that could potentially cause Israel to lose the qualitative military edge.”
Engel, who lost his primary bid to progressive candidate Jamaal Bowman in June, reflected on US-Israel ties after serving three decades in Congress.
“I take pride in the fact that the US and Israel are the closest friends,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter to me who’s elected and who’s not elected. I want the US-Israel relationship to be stronger and stronger, and I think I’ve been a strong part of it.”

Omri Nahmias contributed to this report.