Gadi Eisenkot at a memorial for the 73 soldiers who died when two helicopters crashed en route to southern Lebanon in 1997..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot met with his counterparts from several Arab countries while in Washington for the Counter–Violent Extremist Organizations conference for military commanders, Israeli media reported Tuesday evening.
According to a report by Israel’s KAN public television, Eisenkot met with Saudi Arabia’s Chief of Staff Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili on Tuesday on the sidelines of the conference about several regional issues, including Iran, which is a common foe to the two countries.
A statement released by the IDF had said that Eisenkot would meet with military officials from both the US and other foreign military officials, it did not specify which military leaders he would meet.
While this seems to be the first publicized meeting between Eisenkot and al-Ruwaili, it is the second consecutive year that the two officers attended the Counter–Violent Extremist Organizations conference
for military commanders, where the two are believed to have also spoken about Iran.
Last November, following Eisenkot’s first participation in the conference, he gave an unprecedented interview to the Saudi Elaph
newspaper based in London and offered to share Israeli intelligence about Iran with Riyadh, telling the newspaper that what he heard from the Saudis about Iranian expansion was “identical” to Israeli concerns.
“We are ready to exchange experiences with Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence to confront Iran,” he said, adding that “there are many shared interests between us and Saudi Arabia.”
Calling for a new international alliance in the Middle East, Eisenkot stated that there needs to be “a large, comprehensive strategic plan to stop the Iranian threat. This is what should be prevented in the region,” he said, adding that “in this matter there is complete agreement between us and Saudi Arabia.”
In addition to the meeting with al-Ruwaili, Eisenkot was seen in a photo released by the Department of Defense of a dinner during the conference seated at the same table as the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces Mohamed Farid, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Jordan Lt.-Gen. Mahmoud Abdul Halim Freihat, as well as the Chief of Staff of Bahrain, Lt.-Gen. Dhiab bin Saqr Al Nuaimi.
While Israel has no official ties with Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, the relationship with the Sunni Kingdom and other Gulf States has grown stronger in recent years, due in large part to the shared threat of Iran’s expansion across the region.
Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are at their worst in years with both accusing the other of subverting regional security. Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman caused an uproar earlier this year when he recognized Israel's right to exist.
Last November a spokesperson for Yemeni rebels accused Israel of taking part in the Saudi Arabia led-coalition against Yemen and warned that Israeli military bases in Africa are within range of Houthi missiles.
The Houthis, which are armed by Iran, have also fired several ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia, including one which targeted the Saudi capital Riyadh a day before US President Donald Trump visited the Kingdom last May.
In September the Emirati news website al-Khaleej reported that Saudi Arabia had purchased Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system to defend itself from Houthi missile attacks. The deal, which was reportedly mediated by the United States included further plans to reach an agreement on broad military cooperation between the two countries.
Israel’s Ministry of Defense and Rafael which manufactures the system, denied the report.
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