Gantz to 'Post': Israel's military superiority a critical security aspect

Defense Minister to 'Post': "We also make deals with the United States and we can also get more platforms and systems."

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)
Israel will retain its qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East despite any possible deal between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, Defense Minister Benny Gantz told The Jerusalem Post on Monday as the first direct flight from Tel Aviv was in the air to Abu Dhabi.
“QME is a critical aspect of Israel’s security,” he said. “We also make deals with the United States, and we can also get more platforms and systems. This is not a one-sided deal.”
Gantz stressed that Israel’s QME would not be at risk and that he would make sure the deal signed by Israel and the UAE would allow Jerusalem to maintain its security interests.
“I have said, and I will repeat, we will know as a security establishment how to accompany this deal while maintaining Israel’s security interests, especially in regards to our QME... I will take care of Israel’s security,” he said.
US Presidential Adviser Jared Kushner on Monday defended the possible sale of F-35 advanced stealth fighters to the UAE, saying the US would maintain Israel’s QME.
“The military relationship America has with the UAE is very special just like the relationship between Israel and America,” he said after landing in Abu Dhabi. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump would discuss the possible sale of F-35s, he added.
Washington has been selling Abu Dhabi millions of dollars’ worth of military equipment, but it has pledged to preserve Israel’s QME in the Middle East before selling any advanced weaponry to other states in the region.
Gantz would not discuss what Israel may ask from the US should the F-35 be sold to the UAE.
“We know what we want to ask for and what we might be able to get in order to make sure that we can act professionally and strategically with the developments in the Middle East,” he said.
When asked if there could be any positives to the Gulf state procuring the jet, Gantz said a possible coalition could be one, provided Israel’s QME was maintained.
“Yes, it could be that there might be something like a possible coalition that might be positive,” he said. “Others would say that it is better that they have American weapons systems rather than Russian or Chinese. But there are always two ways it can go.”
Gantz spoke to his Emirati counterpart, Mohammed bin Ahmad Al Bawardi, last week. On Monday, he told the Post he expects more phone calls to take place between the two of them. No date has been set to meet, but “it doesn’t matter where the meeting will happen, here or there,” he said.
Gantz said he was very pleased with the diplomatic developments and appreciative of what Netanyahu, Trump and Kushner had done.
“The agreement is not only good for UAE and Israel and not just bilateral,” he said. “It can cause a positive domino effect. Anything to advance peace in the Middle East, or at least normalization, must be welcomed.”
Gantz said it was improper that he was not told of the deal in advance, but what mattered was that it was made.
“There is a difference between a basic surprise out of nowhere, being astounded, which is not what this was, and a situational surprise that it happened now,” he said.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid congratulated Netanyahu and said he hoped other countries would follow. But Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who is also in the opposition, criticized Netanyahu.
“Any agreement with an Arab country is undoubtedly important, but this is not peace for peace, as Netanyahu claimed, but normalization for Netanyahu conceding on sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley and a silent agreement on America selling the UAE F-35s,” Liberman said.

The full interviews with Gantz, Lapid and Liberman will be published in
The Jerusalem Post's Rosh Hashanah supplement.