US Secretary of Defense Panetta to visit Israel

Leon Panetta to meet with Barak to discuss regional developments, including Iranian threat, Palestinian statehood.

Leon Panetta 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS)
Leon Panetta 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS)
United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will visit Israel next week for talks with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the latest effort by the Obama administration to show that it is boosting security ties with Israel.
Panetta, who took up his post in July after serving for about two-and-a-half years as director of the CIA, is expected to also confirm that Israel is not currently contemplating attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
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Talks with Panetta are expected to focus on regional developments, such as the Iranian nuclear threat, the ongoing upheaval in Egypt and the Palestinian bid for statehood.
Israel is expecting the US to apply pressure on the interim military-run regime in Cairo and any future government to abide by the peace treaty.
“Security cooperation with the US is extremely close today,” a senior defense official said. “The US is and will hopefully continue to play a key role in stabilizing the region.”
Barak and Panetta met last week at the Pentagon in Washington.
As head of the CIA, Panetta worked closely with Israeli intelligence and made an unannounced visit to Israel in early 2010, during which he reportedly warned the government against attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.
While Barak is considered more of a hawk when it comes to Iran, officials close to the defense minister have made an effort to downplay the seeming discord between Israel and the US regarding the Iranian nuclear threat.