Senior Israeli military expert warns against any supply of top US fighterplanes to Gulf States.30 August 2020
A senior former Israeli military intelligence chief has expressed “worry” that concessions that his country may have been made in exchange for the recent peace deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will lead to Israel losing its air superiority in the region.
Speaking to correspondent.world and 15 other journalists in a half-hour webinar, General Amos Gilead called on the US Congress to reject any effort to sell the USA’s top fighter-plane, the F35, to any Arab nation, whether or not they had signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state.
“The fact that we do have the F35s and they do not helps our peace relationship regionally,” Gen. Gilead argued. “It gives us total air superiority and this deters any future threats.”
He was referring to remarks by President Donald Trump suggesting part of the price Israel has had to pay for the UAE deal is to allow the Gulf emirates to buy the American-made F35s.
At a news conference, Trump said the UAE was interested in buying the fighter jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corporation.
“They’d like to buy F-35’s, we’ll see what happens, it’s under review,” the president said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country would oppose any such sales.
Speaking on a digital feed from the Jerusalem Press Club, Gen. Gilead, described the aircraft as “a unique fifth-generation plane that reminds me of Jules Verne”.
He said that acquisition of the F35 plane by the UAE would not itself pose a threat to Israel but it would lead to pressure on the US to also sell F35s to its other regional allies, especially the “regional superpower” Saudi Arabia.
Such sales would help the USA recoup its development costs for these extremely expensive aircraft, he noted. He pointed out, though, that the US is “committed by law to keep the qualitative military edge of Israel”.
The former general was speaking on the eve of Israel’s state-owned airline El-Al’s historic maiden flight to the UAE. It flew over the territory of Saudi Arabia for the first time too. Last month the UAE, the USA and Israel announced that Israel and the UAE would establish full diplomatic and commercial relations.
The visiting delegation, on a direct flight from Israel to Abu Dhabi, was led by Israel’s National Security Advisor and head of the National Security Council Meir Ben-Shabbat, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and Senior US Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner.
Gen. Gilead said a very pleasing part of the agreement with the UAE was that Israel had been obliged to take the potential annexation of large chunks of the West Bank off the table. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said he was contemplating this annexation because the Palestinians had rejected the “deal of the century” devised by President Donald Trump.
As part of it, Israel would have taken full control of segments of the West bank which did not contain the main Palestinian cities but which were seen to be of major strategic significance to defending Israel against external attack.
“To have annexed would have been so stupid,” the general said. “It would destroy our security co-operation with [neighbouring] Jordan that has been of immense value to us.
“”It would also destroy the Palestinian Authority, and we would instead have had Hamas control the West Bank or we would have had to resort to direct occupation.
“We cannot bypass the Palestinians. They are our direct neighbours, not the UAE.”
He added: “Thank God the UAE has saved us [from declaring this annexation].”
He said that by not annexing Israel can concentrate its energies on its “real” threat: Iran.
He warned that Iran’s ally in Lebanon, Hizbullah, wanted advanced missiles to target all strategic targets inside Israel.
“Our deterrence is very fragile,” Gen. Gilead said. “The moment they get such missiles to add to their [arsenal of] 150,000 rockets, the balance is changed. They become a strategic threat. We need to work against this all the time.”
He indicated Israel was taking steps to prevent the flow of missiles from Iran to Hizbullah. He said: “Operationally, we do have achievements”, but did not elaborate.
- Military experts in the USA say any F-35 sale would take years to negotiate and deliver. That would give a new American presidential administration time to halt the deal. Any sale would also need pre-approval by the normally pro-Israeli US Congress.
- **Gen. Gilead was described by the JPC as former Director of Policy and Political Military Affairs at the Ministry of Defence.
“Brig. Gen. (res.) Gilead dedicated most of his military career to the Intelligence Corps. As Chief of the Intelligence Research and Analysis Division, General Gilead was responsible for producing the national intelligence assessment and national strategic.
“Achieving the rank of Major General in 2001, Maj. Gen. (res.) Gilead was appointed Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and directed the coordination of civilian affairs with the Palestinian Authority. He participated in several rounds of the peace process and negotiations with the Palestinians, and was a special envoy on the Israeli MIA soldiers to PLO Chairman Arafat.
“In 2008, he headed the Israeli team for the military affairs working group in the negotiations following the Annapolis Peace Conference. Prior to this, Maj. Gen. (res.) Gilead served as the Spokesperson of IDF and as the Military Secretary (aide de camp) to Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Yitzhak Rabin.
“[He is currently] Executive Director of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at IDC Herzliya and is the Chairman of the Institute’s Annual Herzliya Conference Series. Concurrently, Maj. Gen. (res.) Gilead teaches security and intelligence studies at IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy.”