Despite ongoing military operations in Libya, United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will arrive in Israel on Thursday for talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak that will focus on the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East.
An honor guard will receive Gates at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Thursday afternoon. The two will meet for about an hour and then hold a joint press conference.
Gates’s visit on Thursday is his second trip to Israel as defense secretary. His first visit was in April 2007 when Amir Peretz still served as defense minister. Gates is on a tour throughout the Middle East reported to be part of a farewell trip ahead of his planned retirement this summer.
Gates was originally appointed to the post of defense secretary by President George W. Bush and was asked to stay over by Barack Obama following his election in 2008.
The talks with Gates are expected to focus on the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East. Israel is concerned with the possibility that radical Islamists will gain power in some of the countries undergoing revolutions – particularly in Egypt – and is seeking ways to ensure its qualitative military edge.
Earlier this month, Barak told the Wall Street Journal that Israel would need $20 billion to contend with the new threats that are emerging in the region in light of the regime changes in Egypt, Tunisia and the possibility of additional changes in Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and elsewhere.