Following UAE Deal, Gantz Seethes After Being Sidelined on F-35 Talks by Top Official

The defense minister sent a harshly worded letter to National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, protesting him making a call to Air Force commander on the potential American sale of F-35 fighter jets to Arab states

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz holds a meeting in his office, Jerusalem, August 19, 2020
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz holds a meeting in his office, Jerusalem, August 19, 2020 Credit: Oded Karni
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

Defense Minister Benny Gantz sent a strongly worded letter on Thursday to Israel’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat, protesting a June 2 phone call with the Air Force commander on the potential American sale of F-35 fighter jets to other Middle Eastern countries, without Gantz being updated on the matter.

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Ben-Shabbat asked Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin whether there has been any changes to Israel’s stance on F-35 acquisition by Arab states, including those with diplomatic relations with Israel.

This comes after a senior Emirati official said on Thursday that the UAE has a legitimate request to acquire the F-35 fighter jet and its agreement to normalize ties with Israel should remove "any hurdle" for the United States to proceed with the sale.

"We have legitimate requests that are there. We ought to get them ... the whole idea of a state of belligerency or war with Israel will no longer exist," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said in an online interview with the Atlantic Council. He added that the potential sale is "not connected" to the normalization deal between the UAE and israel.

National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabbat, Jerusalem, March 26, 2020Credit: Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

In his Thursday letter, Gantz said the call between Ben-Shabbat and Norkin was a violation of regulations, stressing that the national security adviser hasn’t updated him or the Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on the matter at all.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed said in an interview with Israel hayom daily published Monday that he did not tell Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi about Israel's normalization agreement with the UAE, because he was afraid they would leak it.

“They can speak uncontrollably with people close to them and this information could get out,” said Netanyahu to the Sheldon Adelson-owned free paper, known for its strong support for Netanyahu. “To inform them? I’ve been dealing with it for years. They’ve only been here for two months in all.”

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