Visiting US military chief Martin Dempsey on Monday met President Shimon Peres, who thanked him for his personal involvement in ensuring Israeli security.
Peres thanked Dempsey “for coming [to Israel], and for your personal commitment to Israel’s security,” and for the “profound cooperation between the American armed forces and our own.”
“The cooperation is at the highest level and is at its best. The absolute friendship is an important strength to deter danger and to face our enemies,” Peres said at the meeting in the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, alluding to the Austere Challenge 12 drill, involving thousands of troops from Israel and the US, which has been taking place over the past week.
Regarding the Arab Spring and the changing face of the Middle East, Peres remarked that “there are great dangers but some promises too, and we have to distinguish between them. We must never forget there are chances, never ignore the dangers.”
Dempsey thanked Peres, and said the American commitment to maintaining strong military cooperation “provides the foundation for the other instrument of power to be applied. This exercise we’re conducting is the largest one ever. It’s a real opportunity for our soldiers to work with Israeli soldiers, our airmen to work with Israeli pilots and our sailors to work with Israeli sailors.
“This exercise covers all of those domains to ensure that we have a layered cooperative, collaborative, common defense against the threats of missiles and rockets,” he said.
Dempsey added that he was honored to be in Israel again, and that “we want to reinforce the commitment you mentioned [to Israel’s security] because we must go forward together.”
Dempsey met Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the beginning of his visit, and Barak remarked after the meeting that “the security relationship between the US and Israel is deeper and stronger than it has been in recent years.”
Dempsey’s visit to Israel was his second in 2012, and talks were expected to focus chiefly on Israeli and American security cooperation vis-à-vis Iran’s nuclear program.
Dempsey has been outspoken in his opposition to a unilateral Israeli strike on Iran. In August, he was quoted by The Guardian as saying that an Israeli attack would not succeed in stopping Tehran’s drive toward nuclear capability. Then, he reportedly avowed that he did not wish to be “complicit” in an Israeli strike.
Dempsey came to Israel this week to oversee elements of Austere Challenge 12, an air-defense drill that includes more than 3,500 Americans and 1,000 Israeli troops. The forces are training their ability to work together against a range of threats facing Israel.
Among other things, the joint exercise is testing multiple Israeli and American air-defense systems against incoming missiles and rockets from as far away as Iran.