US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta 370 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will arrive in Israel on Wednesday to gauge
Israel’s determination to attack Iran and to try to persuade Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu to give sanctions and diplomacy more time.
will arrive in Israel on Wednesday after brief stopovers in Tunisia and Egypt
and will be met by an honor guard at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.
will sit down to a work meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak before later
talking to Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
This will be Panetta’s second visit to
Israel in 10 months and his ninth meeting with Barak.
said talks with Panetta would focus on Iran’s continued nuclear program and the
volatile situation in Syria, as well as Israel’s ties with
Officials said that due to the timing of the visit – just days
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s visit to Jerusalem – Panetta is
expected to affirm the US’s commitment to Israel’s security, and possibly even
announce a new security package.
Shortly before landing in Tunis on
Monday, Panetta told reporters new sanctions were set to be imposed on Iran next
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“With regards to where Israel is right now, my view is that they
have not made any decisions with regards to Iran and that they continue to
support the international effort to bring pressure against Iran,” Panetta
During his visit, Panetta will tour an Iron Dome counter-rocket
defense battery and meet with the Israel Air Force soldiers who operate it. The
US has provided Israel with $205m. for additional Iron Dome batteries and
recently announced the allocation of an additional $70m.
“We feel that
the more we can support them in building that kind of defense system, the more
we can send a clear signal to others that Israel is going to be able to defend
itself against such attacks,” Panetta said.
He also disregarded Romney’s
claim on Sunday that Israeli-US ties were strained and said there was
unprecedented defense cooperation between the two countries.
of the defense partnership that we’ve built over the past several years,” he
said. “The US-Israel defense relationship, I believe, is stronger today than it
has been in the past.”
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