Defense Min. Benny Gantz to fly to US for security meetings

The visit comes as Israel is stepping up a diplomatic campaign to influence the United States, England, and France on the nuclear talks being held with Iran in Vienna. 

Defense Minister Benny Gantz welcomes his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, to Israel (photo credit: US EMBASSY)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz welcomes his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, to Israel
(photo credit: US EMBASSY)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz is set to fly to the United States next week for an official visit to conduct a series of meetings centered on security issues, likely centered on Iran.

During his visit, Gantz will meet with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The visit comes as Israel is stepping up a diplomatic campaign to influence the US, England and France on the nuclear talks being held with Iran in Vienna.

The head of the IDF Operations Directorate, Maj.-Gen. Oded Basiuk, also met with UN Peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix during a visit to the United States.

The meeting – which was also attended by Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan, and International Cooperation Division head Brig.-Gen. Effie Defrin – focused on the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah and the need to strengthen the agency’s enforcement against it.

 PM Naftali Bennett meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO) PM Naftali Bennett meets with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (credit: AVI OHAYON - GPO)

“We explained that the UN must strengthen enforcement against Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Erdan posted on Twitter following the visit. “We asked him to present to the Security Council the real situation on the ground and the fact that Hezbollah is using civilian homes as missile launchers. We have made it clear that Lebanon will be responsible for the consequences,”

Hezbollah, Iran’s strongest proxy, is estimated to have some 130,000 rockets and missiles in its arsenal and is expected to fire some 2,500 rockets a day in any future war with Israel.

Israel is pessimistic about any outcome from the nuclear talks, leading the defense establishment to gear up for a worst-case scenario, alongside the diplomatic campaign.The new budget has allowed Israel to buy precision weaponry and put some NIS 5 billion of the budget exclusively toward its war-between-wars campaign against Iran. The funds will be allocated to intelligence-gathering capabilities, increasing the military’s target bank even further.

Israel has also increased its military training and held several joint exercises with US Central Command Forces.

Basiuk is in the United States as part of a visit to US Central Command where, along with IDF Strategy and Third Circle Division head Maj.-Gen. Tal Kalman, he is meeting with senior CENTCOM generals.

Basiuk also met with senior American officials during a visit to the Pentagon.

“The IDF officials held an operational and strategic meeting to discuss the challenges facing both militaries and deepened operational readiness through strategic dialogue,” the IDF said Wednesday.

Israel was formally transferred from US European Command (EUCOM) to CENTCOM in September, a move that will not only simplify cooperation with American troops in the region but could also create the potential for a regional coalition with Arab countries that have normalized ties with Israel against shared threats posed by Iran.

“The realignment strengthens the strategic US-Israeli defense relationship and offers opportunities to deepen operational collaboration between the Israel Defense Forces and CENTCOM’s many partners in the region,” CENTCOM said in a statement at the time.