Israel-Arab air defence alliance has 'already thwarted Iran attacks': Gantz

Israel-Arab air defence alliance has 'already thwarted Iran attacks': Gantz
Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said he expected US President Joe Biden's July visit to the Middle East to further strengthen the regional air defence alliance.
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Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz called the deal the 'Middle East Air Defence Alliance' [Amir Levy/Getty-archive]

Israel is building a US-sponsored air defence alliance with Arab states which has already thwarted attempted Iranian attacks, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz said on Monday.

Gantz, who called the deal the "Middle East Air Defence Alliance" in a speech to Israeli lawmakers, said he expected US President Joe Biden's July visit to the region to further strengthen this cooperation.

The alliance's announcement comes after US lawmakers earlier this month put forward a bill which would compel the Pentagon to create a proposal for Arab-Israeli air defence integration in a bid to counter Iran and its proxies.

"Over the past year I have been leading an extensive programme, together with my partners at the Pentagon and in the US administration, that will strengthen the cooperation between Israel and countries in the region," Gantz said, according to an official transcript.

"This programme is already operative and has already enabled the successful interception of Iranian attempts to attack Israel and other countries."

Gantz said Israel's army and the Pentagon have been working on a plan that stipulates that cooperation will take place under the US' CENTCOM military command, The New Arab's Arabic sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported.

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The transcript did not name partner countries nor give further details on the thwarted attacks.

Iran, Israel's archfoe and a regional rival of Arab powers, says any military actions it takes are defensive.

After the announcement, Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Brigadier General Abolfazl Shekarchi said the joint military activities of Israel and some Arab countries in the Gulf are done "out of desperation".

Israel has offered defence cooperation to US-aligned Arab countries which are also opposed to Iran in recent years, though they have been publicly hesitant towards the idea.

Israel reached controversial normalisation agreements in 2020 with states including the UAE and Bahrain under then-US President Donald Trump.

These deals were slammed by Palestinians and their supporters throughout Middle East and beyond.

Biden will visit the region from 13–16 July, travelling to Israel before continuing to Saudi Arabia, where he will meet Arab leaders.

Riyadh was supportive of Israel's 2020 rapprochement with the UAE and Bahrain but has stopped short of itself normalising ties with its Israeli neighbour.

As tensions have mounted over Iran's nuclear programme in recent years, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and parts of Iraq have come under UAV or missile strikes that were claimed by or blamed on Iranian-backed militias.

Monday's air defence announcement comes after Israeli state broadcaster Kan on Thursday reported that Israel, the US and Gulf countries had already drafted a "document establishing the building of a regional strategic alliance" before normalisation began.

This followed talks between military officials in 2017 and 2018, according to Kan.

(Reuters, AP, The New Arab)