US Joint Chiefs head to visit Israel

In sign of warming US-Israel relations, Mullen to visit.

mullen 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
mullen 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
In a sign of the improving ties between the United States and Israel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen will pay a short visit to Israel Sunday on his way back to the US from meetings in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mullen will meet with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, whom he has met 14 times since both took up their posts in 2007, and will then have lunch with additional IDF generals, including OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin, OC Navy Maj.-Gen. Eli Marom and Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
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Sunday’s trip will be Mullen’s fourth visit to Israel. Before his first visit in 2007, a chairman of the joint chiefs had not visited Israel in a decade.
Officials said that the two military chiefs would focus on Iran’s nuclear program in their discussions, as well as the situation in Syria and Lebanon.
The Israeli-Turkish rift will also be raised.
On Saturday, Philip Gordon, the Obama administration’s top diplomat on European affairs, said that Turkey was alienating US supporters and needed to demonstrate its commitment to partnership with the West.
“The relationship between Ashkenazi and Mullen is of strategic importance for Israel,” a senior defense official said Saturday.
In related news, IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu returned last week from London, where he lectured on Israel’s security situation.
Benayahu had considered canceling the trip due to the possibility that as the IDF’s spokesman he could be arrested and tried for war crimes.
“This was particularly a concern following the flotilla incident three weeks ago,” an IDF source said.
Following consultations between the IDF Military Advocate General’s Office and the Foreign Ministry, Benayahu was given approval to travel to the British capital, albeit with security.
All of his hotel reservations were made under a false identity.
During his visit, Benayahu said that the IDF was interested in repairing its ties with Turkey, which have significantly deteriorated over the past 18 months.
He also called on Syria to decide if it wants to be aligned with Iran and Lebanon or to mend its ties with the West.