In the immediate aftermath of the historic normalization of relations between Israel, the U.A.E., and Bahrain, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz flew into Washington D.C. for a quick 24-hour visit with top American officials. They discussed how to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge in the Middle East and policies in relation to Iran.
“I’m heading to the U.S. for a series of very important defense meetings for the future of the State of Israel’s security,” Gantz had said prior to his leaving Israel. “I’ll meet […] with U.S. Secretary of Defense and his colleagues, and we’ll discuss ways for continuing the struggle against Iran and ensuring the qualitative edge of the State of Israel.”
Defense Secretary Mark Esper assured Gantz that the United States will ensure the maintenance of Israel’s qualitative superiority. There have been some fears that the proposed sale of U.S. F-35 fighters to the U.A.E will diminish Israel’s regional advantage.
The F-35s aren’t the only items that the U.A.E. is buying, however. It will also procure Reaper drones and EA-18G Growlers, which are advanced electronic-warfare aircraft that are employed to jam enemy air defenses. The Growlers are currently flown only by the United States and Australia.
Gantz was an Israeli paratrooper officer. He trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., with U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) as a young officer before fighting in Lebanon. He rose to be the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and is now the Israeli Defense Minister. In a power-sharing and rotational deal with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gantz will become Israel’s Prime Minister in November 2021.
Gantz and Esper appeared together on the top of the Pentagon’s steps wearing facemasks. Esper reassured Gantz that Israel remains America’s most important strategic partner in the Middle East. “Our partnership is built over generations based on shared values, shared interests, and shared concerns,” Esper said.
He added that the bonds of friendship among the peoples of Israel and the United States are unbreakable. Gantz also met with President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner.
“We cherish the American efforts to bring peace and the obligation to maintaining Israel’s military superiority,” Gantz said. “We will work in partnership to further regional stability in the Middle East through normalization with additional countries.”
Esper and Gantz also discussed ways to normalize relations with other Arab nations. This would further increase stability in the Middle East while preserving Israel’s security, the Israeli Defense Ministry released in a statement.
“Across that long history, the defense relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger: We intend to keep it that way,” Secretary Esper said.
“I do want to say upfront for everyone, that a cornerstone of our defense relationship is preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. The United States is committed to that, and the Department of Defense is committed to that imperative [sic]” Esper added. “And we will continue to support the long-standing U.S. priority to maintain Israel’s security.”
The U.S. is expected to sweeten the pot for the Israelis and provide an earlier-than-planned sale of KC-46 air refueling aircraft. It may possibly also add another F-35 squadron, F-15X fighter jets, KC-46 refuelers, Chinook or CH-53K helicopters, and V-22 Ospreys into the mix.
Gantz thanked Esper and the United States for their continued friendship and support while promising, on Israel’s part, to deepen the partnership. “As I always say, we have no other United States, nor do you have any other Israel. We will make sure together, to keep those bonds active and close to one another. It has to do with [qualitative military edge]. But it also has to do with lots of cooperation that we have, we always say it is in our moral interest to share with you everything we possibly can. And we will continue those relations into the future.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington last week to take part in the signing of agreements normalizing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The signing ceremony was overseen by U.S. President Donald Trump. Netanyahu was joined by the U.A.E.’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayan.
The United States was the first country to recognize the state of Israel when it established its independence in 1948.