Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon met with Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Jerusalem on Sunday, where they discussed the security situation in the Middle East and cooperation between the US and Israel. Ya’alon thanked Dempsey for being a “true friend of the State of Israel and the IDF.”The defense minister had in recent weeks come under fire from the Obama administration for criticizing what he described as its feeble image in the world.“We very much appreciate the relations between the US and Israel,” he said on Sunday. “For us, the US is a strategic ally and our greatest friend. Relations with the US are a cornerstone in the national security of Israel.”Ya’alon said many new challenges were developing in the region, adding that Israel and the US share and analyze assessments and ideas on how to deal with the changes.“We are in a critical week in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we appreciate the efforts of Secretary of State [John] Kerry and the commitment and contribution of President [Barack] Obama to the effort,” Ya’alon said.Ya’alon was also criticized by the US in January for calling Kerry “messianic” due to his fervent attempts to advance peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.The State Department demanded an apology for those comments at the time, which Ya’alon later delivered.Dempsey also met Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who welcomed the American general to his office and said that his visit was an expression of the close ties between the two countries.Netanyahu thanked Dempsey for approving additional military aid to Israel for missile defense, and underscored the close defense cooperation between the two countries.Earlier this month the US and Israel signed an accord to continue production of the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Under the agreement, the US will transfer $429 million for Iron Dome procurement.Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz participated in Dempsey’s meetings with Netanyahu and with Ya’alon.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.