Israeli Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny hosted visiting-United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on a visit to ‘Nevatim’ Air Force Base southeast of Be’er Sheva this morning, joined by Israeli Air Force Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.
The top US defense chief was presented with new Israeli developments and cutting-edge technologies and systems, including new innovations on the F-35, the Iron Dome missile defense battery recently acquired by the US, the Arrow (“Hetz”) anti-ballistic missile, the David’s Sling military system, the Trophy military active protection system, and others.
Minister Gantz and Secretary Austin will continue to the the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center and the National Hall for Israel’s Fallen on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, where they will hold an additional defense discussion.
During the first of Lloyd’s 2-day visit, Israel’s Defense Minister pledged to cooperate with the United States on Iran – while stressing that Israeli security must remain safeguarded under any renewed nuclear deal Washington may reach with the Islamic Republic.
“Israel views the United States as a full partner across all operational theaters, not the least Iran,” said Gantz, underscoring, “And we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world and the United States, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel.”
Austin, who is making the first visit to Israel by a senior official of the administration of US President Joe Biden, assured Gantz that Washington views the alliance with Jerusalem as central to regional security.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks with Sec. Austin today, after a joint statement will be delivered.
Netanyahu has expressed objection to the the Democratic administration’s desire to return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal from which the previous Republican administration withdrew in 2018. He has previously stated that Israel will not be bound by a renewed pact – which he describes as a temporary cap on Iranian nuclear capabilities that would pave the way to weapons production.
Israeli officials have long threatened last-ditch military action against Iran if they determine that diplomatic efforts by the international community fail to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Sec. Austin has so far made no public mention of Iran during his Israel visit. He has, however, reiterated the Biden administration’s commitment to ensure Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the Middle East as part of a “strong commitment to Israel and the Israeli people.”
“Our bilateral relationship with Israel in particular is central to regional stability and security in the Middle East. During our meeting I reaffirmed to Minister Gantz our commitment to Israel is enduring and it is ironclad,” underscored the US Defense Secretary.
Already high tensions between Israel and Iran soared at the start of the week, with Tehran accusing Jerusalem of sabotaging its Natanz nuclear facility. This, after the two sides traded accusations of attack on the others’ naval vessels in recent weeks, amid ongoing alleged IDF strikes on Syria to obstruct Iranian entrenchment efforts.