'US, Israel share challenge of Iranian threat'

US military chief meets Peres, Gantz, Barak; leaves a letter after visit to Yad Vashem: "God bless the victims, protect Israel."

By JPOST.COM STAFF
January 20, 2012 14:05
3 minute read.

Dempsey meets President Shimon Peres. (photo credit: IDF Spokesman)

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff described the Iranian threat as a "challenge shared by Jerusalem and Washington," in a meeting Friday with President Shimon Peres and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

"The deep trust between the two countries will help protect our shared value of freedom," said Dempsey. Emphasizing the friendship between the two countries, he continued: "We respect you as our partner in the fight for freedom, not only in this region, but in the entire world."

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Addressing the Iranian threat, Peres said, "I'm sure we will win this battle too, in the struggle for a free and safe world for all nations. Israel and the United States stand on the same front."

The president also thanked Dempsey for coming to Israel saying, "your visit is important, in order to show our shared world view in relation to an issue that endangers the whole world."  

Dempsey also met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and paid a visit to Yad Vashem Friday, together with Gantz. The US general reflected upon his visit to the Holocaust museum in a signed letter: "I have studied the Holocaust and visited concentration camps in Europe. Nothing is so profound and moving as this site... We are committed to ensuring that such a human tragedy never happens again. God bless the victims and protect Israel."

The US army chief began his round of meetings with Israel’s top military and political leadership on Friday with a clear message – coordination and dialogue is the key to improving Israel’s security standing in the region.

“We have many interests in common in the region in this very dynamic time and the more we can continue to engage each other, the better off we'll all be,” Dempsey told Gantz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the beginning of their meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv. Barak responded saying, "There is never a dull moment. That I can promise you".

Dempsey also assured Gantz of US commitment to Israel: "The simplest message of all, my presence here, I hope reflects the commitment we have with each other and I'm here to assure you that's the case."

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"I do know that both our countries share the same interests and values, and I'm sure that we can somehow work it out together," Gantz said to his US counterpart earlier in the conversation, seemingly referring to the issue of the Iranian nuclear threat.

Dempsey, the US’s most senior military officer, arrived in Israel late Thursday night for talks that are aimed at getting the IDF and the government to put the brakes on plans to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. The US is hoping that Israel will move attack plans to the back burner and give diplomacy and sanctions more time to have an effect on the Iranian regime.

After arriving in Israel, Dempsey and his wife Deanie met Gantz and his wife Revital for dinner near Tel Aviv. Before the dinner, Gantz surprised Dempsey with a performance by the IDF orchestra which played Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”. Dempsey is a known Sinatra fan and often sings at various military ceremonies.

The US army chief's visit came amid rising tension between Jerusalem and Washington over Israeli frustration with the US and Europe’s reluctance to impose tougher economic sanctions on Iran.

While there are differences between the countries as to the type of steps that need to be taken to stop Iran, both Israel and the US share the same intelligence assessments regarding the status of Iran’s nuclear program.

As reported last month in The Jerusalem Post, Israeli and American intelligence believe that while Iran has mastered all of the technology it requires to build a nuclear weapon, the regime has yet to make the decision to do so.

Ahead of Dempsey’s visit, Barak tried to ease tensions with Washington, saying that an Israeli military strike against Iran is still “very far off.” Barak said that Israel was coordinating with the US on how to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

"We haven't made any decision to do this," Barak told Army Radio on Wednesday, adding: "This entire thing is very far off. I don’t want to provide estimates [but] it’s certainly not urgent."

Jpost.com staff contributed to this report


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