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Normalization is great, but UAE must not receive U.S. F-35s, warns former Israeli general

Amos Gilead says U.S. must keep to its obligations of not selling balance breaking weapons systems to other countries in the region

Meir Orbach | 18:00, 26.08.20
Israel never fought a war with the Gulf states and it has no history of mass casualties like it had with Egypt and Jordan, but nevertheless the Arab world is ostensibly in a state of war with us, even if it's only on paper. There's an incredible significance to Israel expanding relations with all Arab countries. It greatly increases our strength and opens up a lot of possibilities, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amos Gilead, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC Herzliya said during Calcalist’s online conference on the business potential the UAE presents for Israel.

“If you only focus on clandestine security relations, that's like having a tree with only one root. It's exposed to various political storms. Normalization means power, it means deep roots, and the ability to expand cooperation in a wide variety of areas, such as finance, tech, medicine, and science,” he said.

Asked whether other Arab states would follow, Gilead said Israel should definitely strive for that and that the dream as far as he’s concerned is an agreement with Saudi Arabia. “Saudi Arabia is a very powerful country. Its territory is immense, it's the keeper of sacred sites, it's a religious stronghold. If we have peace with it, that would be an incredible breakthrough,” he said.

Amid reports that the agreement with Israel was a way for the UAE to secure purchases of advanced U.S. F-35 fighter jets, Gilead said there is cause for concern.

“How do we exist in this region? We exist on several foundations. The first is the might of the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF today is capable of dealing with a wide variety of threats. The second is the perception of might. It's just as important, sometimes even more important. Israel has the image of a country that's capable of defeating any assortment of hostile forces. It comes partly from the fact that no potential enemy, or even a party that's a friend now and might become an enemy, none of them have nuclear weapons, which would have changed the situation completely. And most importantly, the Air Force has incredible might that is unmatched anywhere in the region,” Gilead said. He added that the fact that the U.S. is committed to maintaining the balance of power, by law, even to the extent that the law prevents U.S. companies from selling advanced weapons systems worth billions of dollars, is a huge advantage to Israel. But that may be changing.

“What did Pompeo say when he came here? ‘We're obligated to preserve the advantage.’ But when you provide revolutionary arms systems to other countries, you undermine that, and it's not that Abu Dhabi is going to attack us tomorrow, but if Abu Dhabi gets them, soon Saudi Arabia will get them, and other countries as well,” Gilead said. "The Middle East is characterized by upheavals. For instance, Turkey was Israel's sister state. And now? It's our bitter enemy. Iran was an incredible friend and a sister state. Now it is our fundamental enemy, it's developing nuclear weapons in conjunction with its ideology of destroying Israel, which it's determined to carry out. So if we want a lasting peace, it's important to preserve our might and our image of might.”

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“The U.S. emphatically stated it wouldn't provide these aircraft… they're not aircraft, they're highly advanced flying weapons systems, with incredible capabilities and technology that no Arab state has. I remember the American Under Secretary of Defense said that a few years ago, and where did he say that? In Abu Dhabi. This is not a back door situation. They must not have these jets."

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