Dempsey arrives in Israel, meets Gantz

American general dines with IDF chief Gantz; Dempsey visits in effort to convince Israel to give Iran sanctions more time.

By JPOST.COM STAFF,
January 19, 2012 22:45
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)

 
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Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Israel with his wife Thursday evening, and dined with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

Dempsey scheduled his visit in an effort to convince Israel to give diplomacy and sanctions more time to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

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The US army chief  will be met on Friday morning by an honor guard at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv.

He will then meet with again with Gantz, along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Dempsey’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.

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, adding, “This entire thing is very far off. I don’t want to provide estimates [but] it’s certainly not urgent.”

Dempsey 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.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Gantz warned NATO military commanders to “prepare for the worst” in the wake of the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East and the proliferation of weaponry throughout the world, especially when those arms fall into the hands of terrorist organizations.

Addressing a meeting of NATO military commanders at the western military alliance in Brussels, Gantz said that the world needed to “strengthen moderate elements and weaken the radicals.”

“Only through joint work combining tough and soft power can we deter and in the long term overcome these radical elements,” Gantz said.

Earlier in the day, Gantz met with the Canadian and Italian chiefs of staff.

Gantz said that NATO’s decision to establish a missile defense system throughout Europe was a demonstration of the severity of the threat non-conventional weapons pose to the world.

“Ballistic missile defense systems need to be the last line of defense and the initiative needs to come earlier by exhausting all of the available means to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

On Tuesday, Gantz called on NATO military commanders to think up new strategies for dealing with the growing instability in the Middle East and the subsequent increase in threats.

“We are today in a different and more dramatic reality that includes new threats and a period of instability requiring all of us to reassess,” he said during a meeting with General Knud Bartels, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

Gantz also met with Britain’s Chief of Staff General Sir David Richards and Russia military chief Nikolai Makarov, as well as the chiefs of staff of France, Spain, Australia, Greece and Poland.

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