US and Israeli defense chiefs meet in Washington


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The U.S. and Israeli defense chiefs met in Washington, D.C., to discuss regional threats in the Middle East, notably Iran, among other issues.

It was the first meeting for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Naftali Bennett since the latter was appointed in Israel’s caretaker government in November. Israel’s national elections are scheduled for March 2. Bennett heads the New Right coalition.

At Tuesday’s Pentagon meeting, Esper and Bennett “focused on reaffirming the longstanding defense relationship between the United States and Israel,”according to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The two discussed a broad range of defense-related issues to include regional threats, shared interests, and the importance of maintaining a strong military-to-military partnership moving forward,” the statement said.

Bennett said they discussed the threat from Iran and its presence in Syria. He told Esper that Israel would “act firmly against Iran’s actions for Israel’s security,” including against Iran’s military forces in Syria.

In addition, Bennett thanked Esper for his continued support for Israel’s inherent right to self-defense. The United States reiterated a strong commitment toward ensuring Israel’s qualitative military edge.

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