“We have a parliamentary majority of minus two,” joked Defense Minister Gantz at the start of his meeting with Charai and the JST team on June 20, hours before Israel’s coalition government announced plans for dissolution and new elections. Nevertheless, the current government will likely remain in place through new elections in the fall. Gantz presented to the JST team the upcoming visit of President Biden to the region. Also attending the meeting were Minister of Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Cohen and Members of Knesset Ruth Wasserman-Landau, Mufid Moraie, and Alon Tal.
Gantz noted that the US has long been and will remain Israel’s most important ally and the Middle East’s major player; he emphasized the strategic continuities in the US role in the region, regardless of the US administration and Israeli government in place.
President Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Saudi Arabia will be an opportunity for some positive news. Gantz pointed to the joint US-Israel laser missile defense system, Iron Beam, which is shortly to be operational. He focused on the Middle East Air Defense (MEAD) alliance, in which the US regional military command, CentCom, is bringing together Israel and Arab countries to share communications, technology, and detections of missile launches. Gantz described MEAD as one part of a global and regional coalition to face the threats—nuclear, naval, and ground forces, cyber—from Iran.
Turning to diplomacy, Gantz noted progress on many fronts in expanding relations among the partners of the Abraham Accords: Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. Charai credited Gantz’s visit to Morocco of last November as providing impetus for this expansion. Gantz said he hoped to improve economic relations with the Palestinians, noting that he has met twice with Mahmud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. Gantz would like to develop two industrial zones along the border with Gaza, to help address the major unemployment problem, but that would be tied to resolving the cases of four Israeli missing persons in Gaza.
Discussion followed on a range of other issues likely to come up during Biden’s visit, from Israel’s policy toward Russia and Ukraine to China’s investments in Israel. Gantz thanked the JST for creating an intellectual bridge between America and Israel for exchanges in the field of foreign policy.