- Seth Frantzman
US moves forward with F-35 sales to UAE after Gantz and Esper meetings
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
October 29 - After discussions with Israel in late October the White House reportedly sought to move forward with F-35 sales to the UAE. " Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat who leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that the sales “significantly change the military balance in the Gulf and affect Israel’s military edge." Engel lost his Democratic primary and will not be in Congress next year.
The Jerusalem Post reported on October 24 that "Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz doubled down on his accusation that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew about the sale of the F-35 to the United Arab Emirates during negotiations but kept it hidden from the defense establishment." Furthermore “As Defense Minister, I state that the defense establishment did not know and was not privy to the negotiations for the supply of advanced weapons systems to the United Arab Emirates by the Prime Minister,” Gantz said. Read the full report.
A meeting on October 29 between Gantz and Esper, after Gantz had gone to the US on October 21, underlined the relations between Israel, the US and the F-35 issue. Israel's Ministry of Defense noted that "the meeting between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, has ended. Gantz to Esper: 'I am deeply appreciative of our dialogue, which has ensured that Israel now has the tools it needs to contend with destabilizing forces in the region.'"
The statement further noted that: "Defense Minister Benny Gantz welcomed U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper to Israel today for a defense-related visit. Gantz met with Esper, who is on a working tour of the region, as part of the ongoing dialogue between the Defense Ministry and the Department of Defense. After welcoming Secretary Esper as he descended from his flight, Gantz accompanied Esper to a presentation of an Iron Dome battery at Ben Gurion Airport, where the two were briefed by Rafael CEO and DDR&D representatives on the defense system recently purchased for the American military. They continued on to a bilateral defense meeting, joined by Director General of the Defense Ministry, Gen. Amir Eshel, and Chief-of-Staff, Gen. Aviv Kochavi. During the meeting, the two teams reviewed critical components of the defense cooperation between the two defense establishments in the context of the changing Middle East. They discussed the imperative to maintain regional security and stability and to confront Iran. Gantz expressed his appreciation for Esper’s personal involvement in the process which led to a joint declaration at the Pentagon last week, affirming the American commitment to Israel’s QME and outlining intentions to significantly upgrade Israel’s military capacity to the benefit of regional stability.
The two reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the steadfast alliance and ironclad defense cooperation between the two countries.
Gantz said to Esper: “As the region is changing and taking huge steps forward, we have worked together to make sure that we leverage those changes to maximize peace and stability in our region. The joint declaration we signed last week means that Israel will have the tools it needs to contend with aggressive and de-stabilizing forces, making it an even more effective ally to the US and creating the conditions for peace to prosper.”