Gantz flies to Washington for whirlwind talks with senior Biden officials
Defense Minister Benny Gantz was to fly to Washington on Wednesday night for less than a day of intense strategic talks with senior American Pentagon and State Department officials about arms purchases and threats from Iran, Gaza and Lebanon.
Gantz is set to meet with his counterpart Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and members of AIPAC, his office announced on Wednesday evening. He will fly back on Thursday night.
The meetings are to include “strategic dialogue” on the talks for the US to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Gaza ceasefire and reconstruction efforts, the situation in Lebanon and how to maintain Israel’s military superiority and regional stability, his office added.
On Tuesday night Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clashed at the ceremony for incoming Mossad Director David Barnea when Netanyahu said that if Jerusalem had to choose between publicly clashing with Washington or a nuclear Iran, Israel would confront the Islamic Republic.
“Our greatest threat is the existential threat posed by Iran’s efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, whether to threaten us directly with atomic weapons, with the destruction of a small state, or to threaten us with tens of thousands of missiles or a great many missiles backed by a nuclear umbrella,” Netanyahu said.
“Iran is different from the other countries that have nuclear weapons today. Therefore, containment is not an option. If we need to choose – and I hope it will not happen – between friction with our great friend the US and getting rid of an existential threat, getting rid of an existential threat will prevail,” the prime minister added.
Following Netanyahu’s veiled threat against the Biden administration’s policy of seeking to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Gantz said differences should be resolved quietly and without unnecessarily “defiant rhetoric.”
“The US was and will continue to be Israel’s most important ally for maintaining security and its qualitative military superiority in the region,” Gantz said. “The Biden administration is a true friend, and Israel has and will have no better partner than the US. Even if there are disagreements, they must be solved behind closed doors and not with defiant rhetoric that could harm Israel’s security.”
The defense minister is also expected to submit a billion-dollar request to the Pentagon to purchase precision-guided bombs for the IAF and to replenish Tamir interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system. The request follows the 11-day long Operation Guardian of the Walls in which terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip fired over 4,000 rockets toward Israeli cities.
News of the request was confirmed by US Sen. Lindsey Graham, who told Fox News after meeting Netanyahu and Gantz in Israel that “there is going to be a request made by the Israelis to the Pentagon on Thursday for $1 billion in aid to replenish Iron Dome batteries. It will be a good investment for the American people. I will make sure in the Senate that they get the money.”
Graham, a senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which oversees spending, including military aid, added that the “Iron Dome performed incredibly well, saving thousands of Israeli lives and tens of thousands of Palestinian lives. I would imagine that the administration would say yes to this request and it will sail through Congress.”