The second highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces visited Israel’s Defence Minister on Thursday and discussed the Iran threat, in a display of solidarity after the two allies differed publicly over what they fear is Tehran’s drive towards nuclear weapons capability.
Israel’s Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, spoke shortly after meeting with Admiral James Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is visiting Israel. His comments after the meeting have widely been interpreted by the Israeli media as hinting that there may not be a need for an Israeli strike on Iran, due to the unprecedented concentration of US forces in the Persian Gulf.
‘Israel retains its right to make sovereign decisions and the United States respects that,’ Barak said at an Atzmaut (Independent) party gathering. ‘However, one should not ignore the impressive preparations by the Americans to counter Iran on all fronts.’
Barak added that while there are differences between the Israeli and US points of view on Iran, ‘the US is our most important ally. The intelligence cooperation and security backing Israel receives at present is exceptional in its scope.’
Barak’s more moderate tone follow Netanyahu’s more temperate statements earlier this week. Netanyahu said on Monday that if the world outlined ‘clear red lines’ for Iran, the chances of war would be reduced. He also refrained from mentioning Israel’s right to self-defence or making other remark that might imply that Israel was planning to strike Iran.
Admiral James Winnefeld’s visit comes after General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dismayed Israeli officials last month by indicating that Washington did not want to be ‘complicit’ in an Israeli attack on Iran. Dempsey’s comments in Israel were taken as a rebuke to Israel stepping up threats of making an uncoordinated strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities before US presidential election on 6 November.
The US Embassy in Tel Aviv had no comment on Winnefeld’s visit, which Israeli Army Radio said began several days ago and included an inspection of Israel’s Iron Dome rocket interception system, jointly funded with the United States.