US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Israel Wednesday night for two days of meetings with officials.
Senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad received Hagel at Ben-Gurion Airport, as did US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
The Pentagon chief is due to meet with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Hagel is on a week-long trip to the region. Before landing in Israel, he attended a meeting of the US-Gulf Cooperation Council in Saudi Arabia, then flew to Jordan to discuss Eager Lion, an upcoming military exercise.
“This trip will be the secretary’s third to the Middle East in just over a year, and it will advance America’s regional strategy in that region,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said last week.
In Israel, Hagel will discuss efforts to bolster Jerusalem’s rocket and missile defenses, Kirby said.
He is also expected to discuss volatile situations on Israel’s border, including Syria and Egypt.
The tour is part of “our effort to work in a coordinated manner with allies and partners across the region to address common security challenges,” according to the press secretary.
US officials have struggled to reassure Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, over an interim nuclear deal with Iran that the Saudis worry will embolden Tehran.
The energy-rich GCC has also been dissatisfied with Washington’s cautious approach to arming rebel forces in Syria.
Kirby last week said the US-GCC meeting will namely offer Hagel a chance “to underscore US security commitments in the Middle East and to reinforce the United States’ unstinting policy of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and further destabilizing the region.”
The gathering will also focus on coordinating “air and missile defense, maritime security and cyber defense,” he said.