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US military chief stresses ‘strong, enduring relationship’ during Israel visit

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US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Jr. landed in Israel yesterday for his second visit to the country since taking office in October and met with Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot.

A statement from Dunford’s office said that “The visit reinforces the strong and enduring US-Israel defence relationship, and continues our unparalleled military cooperation with Israel.” The IDF commented that the two sides would “discuss a variety of issues during the visit.”

Meeting yesterday at defence headquarters in Tel Aviv, Ya’alon said that Dunford’s visit “is another demonstration of the depth of the relationship between our armed forces and intelligence agencies.” Referencing the “chaotic” situation in the Middle East, Ya’alon commented, “There are a lot of challenges ahead of us, and together we must deal with them.”

Meanwhile, Dunford stressed “This is a challenging time, but what gives me confidence that we can deal with these challenges, is that we have an ally and partner.” He added, “The relationship between our two countries is about much more than just the military to military relationship, but I believe that’s one of the foundational elements.”

There was no mention of negotiations over a new ten-year US military aid package to Israel, which are thought to be at an advanced stage. Ya’alon said earlier this week that a deal would be finalised “in the coming weeks.” Dunford’s visit coincides with a biennial US-Israel military defence drill, which recently got underway in Israel. Thousands of US and Israeli troops have been training together to respond to the threat of missile attack.

Meanwhile, the White House announced this week that US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife “will travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah” next week. Biden will meet Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah, to “discuss our shared regional interests,” said the White House.