Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday night met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Brussels to discuss Iran and other important aspects of the US-Israel relationship.
He emphasized how much Iran stimulates attacks against Israel using proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, and reiterated Israel’s right to self-defense.
Ahead of the discussion, Gallant said he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “and senior defense officials, and reviewed the measures required to ensure Israel’s qualitative edge in the Middle East region.”
He later thanked Austin for working cooperatively to maintain that qualitative edge.
Meeting comes as 'small' Iranian nuclear deal is in the offing
The meeting comes at a critical point where there is increasing speculation of a Western, US-led partial nuclear deal with Tehran; that makes these the last moments for Jerusalem to exact any influence.
Gallant added on Thursday that they agreed to broaden US-Israeli military exercises. January saw the Juniper Oak exercise, likely the largest cooperative one yet. These are often viewed as a thinly veiled threat to Tehran.
Gallant will also meet European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi, and will meet with Belgian Jewish community leaders and Jewish organizations at the Great Synagogue of Brussels.
He will then travel to Paris for the Le Bourget Airshow, where he will meet his counterparts from France, Italy, Hungary and Romania. Gallant is also expected to tour the Israeli national pavilion and deliver remarks during the inauguration ceremony, led by the Defense Ministry’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT).
In March, Austin met with Gallant in Israel. At the time, Austin said that although the Biden administration “continues to believe in diplomacy,” it would “not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” adding that America is concerned about the Islamic Republic transferring new battlefield experience of using its drones in Ukraine to its proxies in the Middle East.
Asked by The Jerusalem Post about his position on Iran’s enrichment of uranium to the nearly weaponized 84% level, Austin said the US was “deeply concerned”, but sought to “explore all diplomatic” options to “try to constrain Iran.”
He also addressed both US security cooperation and the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul policy. Although Austin took the trouble to mention the US’s “ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security several times, he was also likely the first US secretary of defense to express public concern about internal Israeli judicial branch politics.
The US defense secretary also addressed both US security cooperation and the Israeli government’s judicial overhaul policy.
Although Austin took the trouble to mention the US’s “ironclad commitment” to Israel’s security several times, he was also likely the first US secretary of defense to express public concern about internal Israeli judicial branch politics.
Austin said he “wanted to be here to make something very clear: America’s commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad, and it’s going to stay that way. As President [Joe] Biden said in his visit to Israel last year, ‘The connection between the Israeli people and the American people is bone deep.’ Israel is a major strategic partner for the US.
“Our bond is rooted in far more than just shared interests. It’s rooted in the shared values of democracy and freedom and the rule of law. And those values remain essential,” he said.
Austin again referred to Biden’s messaging when he noted the democracies of Israel and the US “are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, and on an independent judiciary.”