Why did a Four Star General land in Israel during a pandemic?

US Army General and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley's visit comes amid a rise in tensions between Israel, the US, and the Islamic Republic.

US Gen. Mark Milley visits Israel in July 2020 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
US Gen. Mark Milley visits Israel in July 2020
It’s not every day that the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff lands in Israel. It’s even rarer for such a visit to occur during a global pandemic, and even stranger when Israel seems to be the only stop on the trip.
US Army general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley arrived on Friday at Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel and met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi and other senior defense officials, like Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and the head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen.
Milley also spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Kochavi, over a video conference call, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and discussed the ongoing threats posed by Iran and the various security challenges in the region.
His visit comes amid a rise in tensions between Israel, the US and the Islamic Republic.
More than a dozen mysterious explosions and fires targeting Iran’s missile and nuclear program have rocked Iran in recent weeks. But Tehran has not pinned the blame on Israel and has tried to downplay the incidents.
Nevertheless, Iran has apparently attempted a number of cyberattacks against Israel – similar to an attack on the country’s water infrastructure facilities in April. They were all thwarted.
Iran’s nuclear and missile program tops the list of threats to the Jewish state and has long been a target of Israel’s national intelligence agency, the Mossad. The US and Israel have been reported to have carried out joint cyberattacks against Iran in the past, including “Operation Olympic Games” – one of the first known uses of offensive cyber attacks.
The attack, which unleashed a wave of computer malware using the Stuxnet worm in an attempt to slow Iran’s nuclear program, was considered one of the most ambitious attempts, with some estimates determining the destruction of more than 1,000 centrifuges.
But Milley’s trip, a trip that seems like it was a one-stop kind of deal, during such a busy period in the Middle East makes one wonder. The last time such visits occurred was in 2012, when US officials used to come to Israel on a regular basis in an attempt to walk Israel back from carrying out a military strike on Iran.
Netanyahu is in a tight political bind, and knows that there might be only a few more months left of the most pro-Israeli American administration in years. US President Donald Trump might not win the upcoming American election, and Netanyahu, while facing indictments and nightly protests over a crumbling economy following his mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis, might not survive another election if he calls one.
Could he maybe be wanting to take the chance to strike Iran, which is in the midst of a devastating economic crisis compounded with the deadly coronavirus?
Did Milley come to discuss these mysterious explosions? Or did he come to walk Israel back from any future action, perhaps non-cyber kinetic attacks?
Though it was likely not tied to his visit, Israel’s military was placed on high alert Friday evening over concerns that Hezbollah might attack in retaliation for the death of one of its fighters in an alleged Israeli airstrike targeting Damascus International Airport on Monday night.
Both Kochavi and Gantz stressed to the general that the IDF will continue to defend the State of Israel and “is preparing for a variety of scenarios.”
“The IDF and the US military have a common interest in maintaining regional stability and preventing its violation by Iran or its proxies,” Kochavi said.
That common interest – Iran – has been on everyone’s lips and has topped the list of threats of both countries. Has the threat posed by Tehran increased? Or have Washington and Jerusalem identified a window of opportunity too good to pass up?
The summer is getting hot. We might soon find out if Milley’s visit means it will get even hotter.