Dempsey: US-Israel coordination is key

US military chief meets Gantz, Barak at Defense Ministry: The more we continue to engage each other, the better off we'll be.

January 20, 2012 11:01
3 minute read.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey_311. (photo credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

US Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, began his round of meetings with Israel’s top military and political leadership on Friday with a clear message – coordination and dialogue are 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 IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the beginning of their meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on Friday. Barak responded by saying that "there is never a dull moment. That I can promise you".

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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."

"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, in a possible reference to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Dempsey, the US’ 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 possible 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 meal, 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.

Dempsey will also meet with head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, OC IDF Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He will later visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum before leaving Israel Friday evening.

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

He is expected to try and reassure Israel that the Obama administration is committed to stopping Iran’s nuclear program, even if it ultimately comes down to using military force. Top US officials have recently said that the US will not allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

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 that "this entire thing is very far off. I don’t want to provide estimates [but] it’s certainly not urgent." staff contributed to this report.

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