The US and Israel are building an air defense coalition in the Middle East that has already thwarted attacks by Iran, Israel’s defense minister announced Monday.
Benny Gantz gave few details about what he called the “Middle East Air Defense Alliance,” or MEAD, in testimony before the Knesset’s powerful Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee — including what other nations are members or what types of operations it has carried out.
The announcement marked the first time Israel has openly acknowledged a regionwide military alliance with Arab partners.
“In the past year, together with my colleagues at the Pentagon and the [Biden] administration, we have been promoting an extensive program to strengthen cooperation between Israel and the countries of the region under American auspices,” Gantz wrote on Twitter Monday morning, according to a translation of the post.
“The plan is already in operation and has thwarted Iranian attempts to challenge Israel and other countries in the Middle East,” added Gantz, who noted attempts by Iran and its proxies to carry out attacks “with rockets, cruise missiles and UAVs [drones].”
In recent years, Israel has formed a series of partnerships, some openly and others covertly, with Gulf Arab countries threatened by Iran.
During his testimony, Gantz said that President Biden’s visit to Israel next month “will support this process.” Biden is also due to visit the West Bank and Saudi Arabia between July 13-16.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for details of the US role in the alliance. Gantz’s comments come just over a month after he met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington.
Yoel Guzansky, an expert on the Gulf at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Tel Aviv think tank, told the Associated Press the new partnership mentioned by Gantz should not be compared to regional mutual-defense alliances like NATO, since “no one expects” Israel and Arab countries to defend one another in the event of an Iranian attack.
Instead, he said, the countries have begun to share information, such as early warning radar intelligence, under the umbrella of the United States.
Guzansky added it was unlikely the Arab partners will be publicly identified due to the sensitivities around cooperating with Israel. Nonetheless, he said it was an “interesting development.”
“If we are looking at the bright side, it’s the beginning, and from this many things can grow up,” he said. “This is the first phase.”
With Post wires