A former senior Israeli defense official on Monday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claims that he was not aware of the sale of advanced F-35 jets to the UAE as part of the normalization deal, is "dangerous" and causes "damage to Israel's security".
In an exclusive interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Amos Gilad, who served as the head of the Defense Ministry's Political-Military Bureau, slammed the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and Netanyahu's approval of the U.S. sale of advanced aircrafts to another country in the region, allegedly done behind the defense establishment's back.
Gilad, who currently heads the Institute for Policy and Strategy at IDC Center Herzliya, said Netanyahu's conduct causes serious damage to Israel's security. "Had he [Netanyahu] been in the opposition, he would have torn the prime minister to pieces," he said.
“Under U.S. law, the administration is obligated to maintain Israel's military superiority in the region. The problem is not the Emirates, but what other Arab states will get. It was clear that the U.S. would not sell such planes to these countries, but U.S. President Donald Trump thinks otherwise,” said Gilad.
He said the administration of former President Barack Obama always maintained they would never sell a plane like F-35 to an Arab country. "But Netanyahu comes along and decides to permit such a sale all on his own."
Gilad said he is skeptical that Netanyahu was not aware of the sale before the signing of the agreement with the UAE, like the prime minister claimed on multiple occasions.
“Everyone said the sale of the planes was part of the normalization agreement: the Americans, the Emirates, the New York Times. And only Netanyahu denied it. I, of course, do not believe him.”
He said the U.S. Congress would have never approved the sale of the jets had Netanyahu objected to the idea.
“Netanyahu simply decided [to approve the sale] on his own, Trump understood from him that it was okay. That's the truth. The prime minister did the same with the submarines [when he approved the sale of advanced German submarines to Egypt] and now he’s doing the same with the planes."
Gilad added that while Netanyahu’s decision to approve the sale of advanced submarines to Egypt without seeking professional advice was a dire mistake, the sale of advanced warplanes to Arab countries poses a much greater risk to Israel “because the Israel Air Force is more important than any other force within the IDF.”
Following the revelation that Netanyahu agreed to the sale of F-35 as part of the normalization agreement, Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed the deal was purposely kept secret from him and the entire defense establishment.
“Netanyahu could have come to the cabinet and said that he wants to make peace and ask the defense establishment to examine the sale of weapons, for better or worse, without excuses,” said Gilad. “Why is everything done deceptively? This culture of lying and making decisions by himself is dangerous and serious."
According to Gilad, the failures of the leadership extends far beyond ill-advised security decisions, referring to the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The 2020 leadership crisis is only getting worse, you cannot see the end. There is no horizon,” said Gilad. “How does the state agree that a million people will not work and the education system will remain shuttered for months on end? All around you see immorality, corruption and lack of leadership.”
He also remained coy when asked if he is planning to enter the political arena anytime soon. "I don't have the answer to this excellent question."