US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford on Tuesday hailed the “rock-solid” relationship with his Israeli counterpart during a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
“I’m back, as you know, for my third time since I’ve been in this assignment to not only work on our overall relationship, but to work on my personal relationship with General Eisenkot, which is rock-solid and probably representative of the broader relationship that we have,” Dunford said.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, praised the “great alliance” between the US and Israel and their respective armies.
“We appreciate it and we know that this alliance is good, not only for security but also good for peace,” he said.
IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot presented Dunford with the Medal of Appreciation during an honor guard ceremony at army headquarters on Tuesday, almost a year after he received a similar award from the United States.
Dunford is visiting Israel this week in order to meet with Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Eisenkot.
He arrived on Monday, but was officially welcomed on Tuesday at the military’s Tel Aviv headquarters, known as the Kirya.
“As part of the honor guard, General Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, received a medal of appreciation from Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot,” the army said in a statement.
“The medal was awarded to General Dunford for his exceptional service, his special contribution to the IDF, and the personal leadership he has demonstrated in strengthening the ties between the United States Military and the Israel Defense Forces,” it said.
In August, Dunford “surprised” Eisenkot with the Legion of Merit medal for “exceptionally meritorious service,” an army official said at the time.
Former IDF chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi also received the Legion of Merit during their tenures as heads of the Israeli military.
Following the honor guard procession, Dunford met with Liberman at the Defense Ministry’s headquarters, which is also based in the Kirya.
“I applaud you for coming here and want to thank you for your great friendship to Israel,” Liberman told Dunford, according to a statement.
“Your visit here is further proof of the depth of the security relationship between the State of Israel and our great ally the United States. Before Israel and the United States stand shared strategic challenges that we will have to face, and during your visit, we will discuss them,” the defense minister said.
Among other topics, Dunford and the Israeli officials were expected to discuss the fighting in Sinai, where an Islamic State affiliate is engaged in a bloody war with Egyptian forces, as well as the situation in Syria, specifically the chemical weapons still believed to be in the control of President Bashar Assad, and the Iranian government’s attempts to transfer advanced weaponry through the country to the Hezbollah terrorist group.
Last Wednesday, US President Donald Trump said fighting the Islamic State was a key part of brokering Israeli-Palestinian peace. Trump was speaking before meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.
This is Dunford’s third official trip to Israel. He previously visited the Jewish state in March 2016 and October 2015.
During his meeting with Liberman, the US military chief noted “it seems like it was 10 years ago, but it was only 19 months ago” that he first visited Israel as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
This week, American and Israeli pilots will fly together in a joint exercise over the Arava desert in southern Israel, the army said.
On Sunday, US and Jordanian forces kicked off a large-scale military exercise, known as “Eager Lion,” in which more than 20 nations will take part.