Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised US Defense Secretary for his role in enhancing security ties between the US and Israel as the two met in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

"Ties between Israel an the US in the security realm are as strong and close as they have ever been, and without a doubt, a substantial part of the credit belongs to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta," Barak said.

Calling Panetta "not just a personal friend for many years, but a friend of Israel," Barak went on to say that "The US and Israel see reality in much the same way, and there is much to discuss, as the regional problems are serious and numerous."

Speaking before the meeting, Panetta said, "Our countries have a strong bond, not only of friendship but of security."

"We will do everything we can to defend both of our countries," he added.

Ahead of Panetta's arrival in Israel on Tuesday night, Israeli officials said they expected him to press Israel to give more time for sanctions before launching a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Speaking at a press conference in Cairo shortly before departing for Israel, Panetta said he would be talking about “various contingencies,” but said specific military plans would not be put forward.

“I think it is the wrong characterization to say we are going to be discussing potential attack plans,” he said. “What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we would respond.”

Asked whether these included military options, he said: “We obviously continue to work on a number of options in that area, but the discussions that I hope to have with Israel are going to be more about what is the threat that we’re confronting and to try to share both information and intelligence on that.”

Click here for full Jpost coverage of the Iranian threat

The US has said it is determined to prevent Iran from getting the bomb, but has called on Israel to give more time for increasingly severe economic sanctions to work.

“Both of our countries are committed to ensuring that Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to that extent we continue to work together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon,” Panetta said.

On Monday, Panetta said that Israel has yet to make a decision to attack Iran and expressed hope that the escalating sanctions on Iran would succeed in stopping the regime’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.

“And while the results of that may not be obvious at the moment, the fact is that [Iran] has expressed a willingness to try to negotiate with the P5+1, and they continue to seem interested in trying to find a diplomatic solution,” Panetta said, referring to diplomatic efforts by the five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany.

The defense secretary will also tour an Iron Dome counter rocket defense battery, a program that the US is helping to finance.

Yaakov Katz and Reuters contributed to this report.

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