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Gantz: Israel is building a Middle East air defense alliance against Iran

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Israel is building a regional air defense alliance to defend its members from Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz says.

He appears to be referring to a recent Wall Street Journal report about a US-led effort to counter the threat posed by Iranian missiles and drones, which included representatives from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan. Israel does not maintain official ties with either Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

“We are building our wide partnership with additional countries in the region to ensure a secure, stable and prosperous Middle East. Among other things, this also includes aerial defense,” he says. “We will strengthen this, as a stable Middle East is an international, regional and Israeli interest of the highest order.”

Gantz does not explicitly confirm yesterday’s Wall Street Journal report, which came out ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region, including both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“Of course, we are all preparing for Biden’s visit to the Middle East and Israel, which I hope will have a positive influence and maybe even bring a breakthrough in our ability to act against Iranian aggression in the region,” Gantz says, speaking at the start of his Blue and White party meeting.

In his remarks, Gantz stresses Israel’s concerns about a renewed nuclear deal between the world powers and Iran, in light of the impending resumption of indirect negotiations between Washington and Tehran about the matter.

“Israel does not necessarily oppose a nuclear agreement, it opposes a bad nuclear agreement. This is the official position of Israel, which has been openly and frankly expressed to our allies in the world,” Gantz says.

“With the expected resumption of nuclear talks, we will continue to work together with the United States and other countries in order to clarify our position and to influence the design of the deal if there indeed will be one. In any case, we will continue intently to defend ourselves with our own forces, to build that force, to act against Iran and its process, and to be prepared for the possibility that it breaks out to a nuclear [weapon],” he says.

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