Israel-Japan defense ties can benefit both sides, Israeli Deputy PM Gantz says in exclusive interview

Courtesy of Israeli Embassy in Japan
Israeli Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel is willing to expand cooperation with Japan in cutting-edge defense technology, including high-powered laser weapons effective against artillery and drones.

“Japan has really developed technologically, and Israel has really developed itself in terms of defense technology,” Gantz, who concurrently serves as deputy prime minister, told The Yomiuri Shimbun in an exclusive interview on Tuesday during his visit to Japan. “So maybe we can do something together because we are both democracies, we are both facing challenges. This is the proper way to cooperate for the benefit of both sides.”

Gantz was in Japan to meet cabinet members including Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, with whom he signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in defense equipment and technology on the same day.

During the interview, Gantz also proposed cooperation in cyber defense and called on Japan to cooperate in building systems to detect malware. He encouraged Japan to do more about its cyber reconnaissance to “make sure that your strategic infrastructure is well protected.”

“Generally speaking, we have to be very conservative of how we use cyber reconnaissance and cyber intelligence activity,” he said. “You can mitigate the risks of breaking privacy while still keeping and maintaining your advantages.”

Mideast air defense alliance

Israel envisions a Middle East air defense alliance to counter the threat from Iran as Tehran continues to pursue nuclear development. The scheme to integrate the air defense systems of Israel and certain Arab countries is said to be led by the United States, as Washington appears to be aiming to have countries in the region take care of their security.

As Iran is a predominantly Shiite Muslim nation, reports assume that pro-U.S. Sunni nations such as Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are parties to an envisioned alliance.

Referring to this network, Gantz reiterated his call for Saudi Arabia, a major country in the region, to join.

“Saudi Arabia has significant importance: religiously speaking, of the Muslim world; of course, immense importance in terms of the energy supply,” Gantz said.

The envisioned alliance would also benefit the international community including Japan, according to Gantz.

“If your energy resources come from the Arabian Peninsula by large, then it is better protected,” he said.

Gantz also expressed strong concerns over the ongoing efforts by the United States and other major Western nations to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, which he said Israel thinks is “full of loopholes.”

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has been holding intermittent, indirect talks with Iran through the mediation of the European Union. The EU presented a final draft document in early August and the talks have reached the final stages.

Regarding this new deal, Gantz said it has “fixed nothing from the former deal and is setting the base for a worse situation than it was before.”