Why would the most senior American military officer visit Israel for the third time in just over a year?
By UDI SHAHAM
Milley was in Israel as part of a tour of the region that included stops in Qatar, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates. In Qatar, he met with leaders of the Taliban in an attempt to solve the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.
During his Israel stopover, Milley met with his local counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi; with Defense Minister Benny Gantz and with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and he visited the Ground Forces’ Multi-Dimension Strike Unit, an elite and innovative combat unit that promotes the IDF’s growing offensive capacities.
Senior IDF sources familiar with the details of the visit said that Iran’s attempts to entrench its terrorist infrastructure in the region was the main topic of conversation during Milley’s visit. The sources stressed that it was more than Iran itself, but also its proxies in the region that the IDF and the American military are watching closely.
The sources said that on three levels – the opportunities in the region, the challenges that both armies face, and the solutions to the regional threats – the IDF and the American military are on the same page.
However, the sources said that the deep partnership between Israel and the US went far beyond just a strategic military alliance.
Officers who were present during Milley’s visit said that in the informal meetings he attended, he manifested his – and America’s – deep commitment to Israel and its security.
For instance, in a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony on Thursday, Milley said that for him, the IDF “is still the army of the Maccabees.”
“You’ve been fighting against tyranny, you’ve been fighting against terrorism, you’ve been fighting for freedom,” he said.
In another instance, sources said, he showed knowledge of Israel’s history and the threat of antisemitism.
This, the sources said, showed a sign of his deep ideological commitment to Israel and for its well-being.
But the visit showed that it was not only Milley but the entire American military standing with Israel. IDF officers in Israel see this strong bond as a symbol of the moral connection between Israel and the US.
They say this partnership is based on shared values, which can also be seen in strategic and tactical agreements regarding possible ways to operate in the region.