US Defence Secretary Mark Esper has vowed to back Israel’s ‘qualitative military edge’ (QME) in the Middle East.
Esper’s comments came as he welcomed Defence Minister Benny Gantz for talks with Pentagon officials in Washington on Tuesday.
“A cornerstone of our defence relationship is preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region,” Esper reportedly said. “The United States is committed to that, and the Department of Defence is committed to that imperative.”
“We will continue to support the longstanding U.S. policy to maintain Israel’s security,” added Esper.
Israel made it clear in the build-up to the Pentagon talks that a key issue of discussions between Esper and Gantz was the ‘QME’.
Gantz, whilst reportedly noting the importance of US-Israel ties in an “unstable” Middle East region, accepted the long-lasting relationship with the US went beyond ‘QME’.
“As I always said, we have no other United States, nor do you have any other Israel,” he explained.
“We will continue those relations into the future. And we see those relations as a privilege, but also as a necessity, a continued necessity,” Gantz added.
Gantz’s office confirmed the trip would also include dialogue on international policy with Iran among a variety of important topics.
The possible sale of advanced fighters to the UAE by the US was a sole frustrating element for Israel at last week’s White House ceremony regarding Israel-UAE-Bahrain landmark agreements.
President Donald Trump stated he had “no problem” with the sale of F-35 warplanes to the UAE. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made known his trust that the US will honour its commitment to ensure Israel’s military edge in the region but has repeatedly confirmed Israel’s arms sales stance in terms of the accord.
“At no point in the talks between Israel and the United States that led to the historic breakthrough, did Netanyahu give Israel’s consent to the sale of advanced weapons to the UAE,” his office previously noted in a statement.
There has been support for Israel’s position from Trump’s special adviser Jared Kushner.
Gantz will reportedly call for a compensation package from the US if the F-35 deal with the UAE goes ahead.
It has been reported the US-UAE deal came about with Israel struggling to manufacture defence systems domestically due to the coronavirus pandemic. Israel Aerospace Industries offered to manufacture systems for the IDF but the Finance Ministry rejected the proposal due to the cost.
The US-UAE arms deal is expected to be discussed in Congress this year.
Gantz and his party are expected to quarantine for five days on their return to Israel.