The Iranian nuclear threat is a key mutual interest shared by Israel and the Gulf Arab states, said Israeli Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz during his first open discussion with Gulf Arab journalists.
Gantz, who is scheduled to become Israel's prime minister next year, took part in the first open group discussion between Arab journalists and an Israeli defense minister on Sunday.
“I must say we have a major issue of mutual interest. We all share in the struggle against extremism and against the Iranian nuclear threat and aggression. This is a threat to the region and to the world and we will create a united front to face it,” he said.
“Especially during turbulent times like this of a global pandemic. Peace makes us stronger. Let us be true and candid. We can only face the uncertainties of COVID-19 through international and regional solidarity and collaboration,” Gantz added, during the event sponsored and organized by the Arab Council for Regional Integration.
First open discussion with Arab journalists
Gantz was speaking to journalists from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, nearly a month after Bahrain and the UAE signed the historic Abraham Accords that opened diplomatic and economic ties with Israel at the White House in Washington DC.
Journalists also asked Gantz his thoughts on both Iran and Turkey’s recent actions in the region, especially given Ankara’s diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv.
“The question of Turkey is a very complicated one, because Turkey is part of NATO. So we must take all the options that we have in our hands, and try to influence it through international pressure to make sure that they are pulling their hands from direct terrorism,” the Israeli defense minister said.
“I know that they are involved in supporting Hamas in Gaza, and they're putting a lot of pressure in northern Syria. But I hope that they will come to a point which they would cease their support of this liberalizing those areas,” he added.
‘Relations should improve gradually’
Asked by Al Arabiya English whether Israel has any solid plans to improve people-to-people relations with Gulf Arab states, Gantz cautioned against moving too fast and instead encouraged a gradual improvement in ties.
“I'm very optimistic about the people-to-people horizon. I think that we have a lot to offer in any area of life. We are well known for our ability, in science, in medical, in agriculture and so many different areas of life other than security,” Gantz told Al Arabiya English.
“The issue, which I hope will help us is to have some kind of patience. It will take a while and I think the first and foremost aspect of it will be education, if we will succeed, to educate our kids and our youngsters, how to accept the other,” he added.
Gantz concluded his open discussion by saying that he expects peace between Israel and the Arab world to be strong and enduring, and broadened through dialogue and discussions in the future.
“I believe that this current peace with the UAE and Bahrain will lead as the countries proceed in joint cooperation to positive strategic developments for the region as a whole,” he said.