Israel needs to renew talks with Palestinians, both in terms of diplomacy and security coordination, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Tuesday.
“We have to restart talks with the Palestinians,” he said. “They aren’t going anywhere and we aren’t going anywhere. It’s about time we sit down and talk.”
Gantz, who served as head of Central Command at the beginning of the Second Intifada and had just come from a meeting with the head of Central Command, Maj.-Gen. Tamir Yadai, said he did not expect an outbreak of violence in the West Bank in response to the normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The security coordination between Israel and the Palestinians, which was canceled in May by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also must be renewed, Gantz said.
Abbas announced in May that the PA would end security coordination with Israel in response to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s threat to annex parts of the West Bank.
While talk about annexation has faded in recent weeks, security coordination has not resumed.
Nevertheless, the defense minister said, “at the moment I don’t see a deterioration on the security front on their part. But at the end of the day there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back. We need to look at our interests, maintaining stability, and the settlements will be secure.”
Israel and the Palestinians have not sat down for peace talks in close to 10 years, but according to Gantz, “just because we don’t talk about it, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”
Regarding the possible sale of the advanced F-35 fighter jet by the United States to the UAE following the normalization of ties between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem, Gantz said it was an American prerogative.
“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, adding nevertheless that “we have a good working relationship with the US to ensure Israel’s qualitative military advantage.”
While he praised the deal, he said the proposed sale of the stealth fighters was a “serious matter.” Gantz said the UAE and Bahrain were two countries “whom we’ve never fought and who have never fought us, not even through proxies.”
The former chief of staff also touched upon the ongoing tensions with Hezbollah, saying any attack by the terror group will be followed by a strong response.
“I will not allow an attack by Hezbollah to pass without a forceful IDF response,” he said.
The IDF remains on high alert after an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria on July 20 killed one of its members.
Hezbollah said at the time that a response to the deadly strike was “inevitable.”