Austin says the US remains committed to Israel’s security and will work with the IDF to ensure its qualitative military edge in the Middle East.
https://www.jpost.com/-By JERUSALEM POST STAFF, REUTERS
The US remains committed to Israel’s security and will work with the IDF to ensure its qualitative military edge in the Middle East, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Sunday shortly after meeting with Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
Gantz said he told Austin Israel would work closely with the US to ensure that a new nuclear deal with Iran does not threaten the State of Israel.
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“The Tehran of today poses a strategic threat to international security, to the entire Middle East and to the State of Israel, and we will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world, of the US, prevent a dangerous arms race in our region and protect the State of Israel,” Gantz said.
Last Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said any agreement with Iran that allows it a path to develop nuclear weapons will not be binding on the Jewish state.
“To our best friends I say, an agreement with Iran that paves its way to nuclear weapons that threaten us with destruction, an agreement like this will not bind us,” he said.
Austin arrived in Israel on Sunday on the first visit by a senior representative from the Biden administration, whose stance on Iran has worried the government.
Austin said he was pleased with the conversations with Gantz. The Biden administration has a strong commitment to Israel and its security, he said.
“Our bilateral relationship with Israel is central to regional stability,” Austin said.
Israel views the United States as a full partner and will work closely with its ally to ensure any new diplomatic accord with Iran does not compromise regional security, Gantz told his US counterpart.
Austin said they also discussed continued normalizing relations between Israel and other Arab countries in the Middle East.
“This is a relationship built on trust that had developed over decades of cooperation,” he said. “Our commitment to Israel is enduring and ironclad.”
Austin is due to meet Netanyahu during the two-day visit, which officials said would include discussions of US arms supplies to Israel.
Washington has sought to reassure Israel on regional security issues while restarting talks about a US return to the 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Iran that the Trump administration quit. So far, the talks have been indirect and inconclusive.
Israel has long been critical of the deal, which it says puts a temporary cap on Iranian nuclear capabilities that would pave the way to Tehran producing bombs in the long run. It has said it would not be bound by any diplomatic agreement.
Israel and Iran have in recent weeks reported sabotage to their ships at sea. Syria has accused Israel of air strikes on its territory. Israel says it is trying to stem a buildup of Iranian forces within neighboring Syria.
Reuters contributed to this report.