Israel Assures U.S. of Its Democratic Strength During High-level Defense Talks
Defense Leaders Give Update
As Israel grapples with the backlash from a contentious legal reform and widespread protests, its defense infrastructure is hard at work with their American counterparts to address security challenges in the Middle East.
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) chief, Gen. Michael Erik Kurilla, met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, just 48 hours after the Israeli Knesset passed the "Reasonableness Clause." This new legislation has incited alarm domestically, eroding the powers of the Supreme Court, and sparking questions about the readiness of the country’s military.
The dialogue at the Defense Ministry headquarters involved other high-ranking officials including IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, head of the IDF Operations Division Oded Basiuk, IDF attache in Washington Hedi Silberman, and head of the Political-Security Division at the Ministry of Defense Dror Shalom.
"The security challenges in the region, focusing on Iranian terrorist activity throughout the Middle East, were the prime focus of the meeting," according to the Israeli Defense Ministry statement. "This includes funding, training and the transfer of weapons to terrorist organizations in Syria and in Lebanon."
The dialogue came a day after Gallant's telephonic conversation with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin:
"Following his conversation with Defense Secretary Austin, the defense minister spoke with General Kurilla about the progress in the security-military coordination between Israel and the U.S., to prevent military nuclear weapons from Iran."
These conversations signal Washington's intent to maintain military aid to Israel, despite the prevailing disagreements between the two nations on a range of issues from Israel's judicial overhaul to its pro-settlement policies.
In his call with Austin, Gallant addressed the U.S. administration's growing concerns over the controversial legislation and its impact on the nation's democratic fabric. Gallant underscored:
"The State of Israel is a strong democracy and will remain so in the future."
The Biden administration has yet to extend an invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accentuating the simmering diplomatic rift. But despite this tension, State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel affirmed the U.S.'s unwavering commitment to Israel's security.
The increasing actions by Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group on the Lebanese border, and the escalating situation in the West Bank city of Jenin, considered a hub for Palestinian militancy, were also likely high on the agenda during the meeting with Kurilla.