Israel to update Biden on progress toward regional anti-Iran military alliance

Benny Gantz tells National Security College graduates that the air defense pact is ‘main means of curbing Iranian aggression’ in Middle East

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent

Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a graduation ceremony at the National Security College, July 11, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz speaks at a graduation ceremony at the National Security College, July 11, 2022. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday that Israel would bring Joe Biden up to speed on progress toward building a regional military alliance against Iran during the US president’s visit this week.

Gantz had recently spoken of US-led efforts to establish a regional air defense pact between Israel and its Arab allies in the region, against the threat of Iranian drones and missiles. The countries in such an alliance would reportedly include United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

“The first security challenge that you all deal with and will deal with is the fight against Iranian aggression, Iran’s nuclear pursuit, and preserving Israel’s operational capabilities to defend itself, alongside establishing various collaborations,” Gantz told graduates on Monday at the National Security College.

“In two days, President Biden will land here, and we will show him the integrated force building we are doing with partners throughout the region against Iran,” he said.

Gantz added that Israel’s defense establishment will “have the task of developing this cooperation in the coming years, as the main means of curbing Iranian aggression in the region.”

The pact, dubbed by Gantz, “MEAD — Middle East Air Defense,” is meant to connect air defense systems to combat Iran’s increasing use of drones and missiles in the Middle East.

The idea of a joint air defense system between Israel and its Arab neighbors is not new; it was raised during the Negev Summit of foreign ministers from Israel, the US, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Egypt in March. It was also reportedly discussed in talks between the US and Saudi Arabia that Washington hopes will culminate in Riyadh taking steps toward normalizing ties with Israel.

(right to left) Maj. Gen. Itai Veruv, commander of the Military Colleges, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, and University of Haifa’s Chairman of the Rector, Yossi Ben Artzi, at a graduation ceremony the National Security College, July 11, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Gantz said last week that there may be a possible “breakthrough” in the efforts during Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia, set to begin Wednesday.

The opportunity for the airborne defense coalition followed normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries, including the UAE and Bahrain, which are geographically closer to Iran.

On Monday, Gantz spoke separately with the chief of the Bahraini military, Field Marshal Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, to wish them a happy Eid al-Adha and discuss “defense cooperation,” according to Gantz’s office.

Responding to recent chatter about the potential cooperation, a senior Iranian officer said Monday the efforts were doomed to fail, citing a Saudi-led alliance’s difficulties fighting Iran backed rebels in Yemen.

Brig. Gen. Yadollah Javani, the deputy head of the political bureau of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. (CC BY 4.0, sayyed shahab-o- din vajedi, Wikipedia)

“It is quite easy to predict the possible fate of the [so-called] Arab NATO,” Brigadier General Yadollah Javani said, according to the state-run Press TV. “Compared to the past coalitions, the new alliance will be even weaker and lack effectiveness in the face of the resistance front and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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