Israel’s regional military edge is safe, top US general assures

Martin Dempsey says Israeli officials expressed concerns about buildup of Arab armies; Ya’alon warns Israel could be drawn into Syria fighting

Moshe Ya'alon meets with US Joint Chiefs of Staff  head Martin Dempsey in Tel Aviv on June 09, 2015. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
Moshe Ya'alon meets with US Joint Chiefs of Staff head Martin Dempsey in Tel Aviv on June 09, 2015. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

The US’s top general assured Israel Tuesday that it would keep its qualitative military edge in the region, after Israeli officials expressed concerns over arms sales to Gulf states.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, in Israel, told reporters that Israeli officials expressed their concern at the scope of US military assistance to Gulf states as a bulwark against Iran.

Dempsey made the comments after meeting with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Israeli army head Gadi Eizenkot.

Washington has long pledged to ensure that Israel has what is called a “qualitative military edge” over its potential adversaries in the region.

But Dempsey said the Israelis are concerned that the growing size of Gulf Arab militaries could erode Israel’s edge.

Reports had indicated earlier this year that Gulf states were asking for an arms package from the US including F-35 jets and bunker-busting bombs previously only supplied to Israel, in exchange for going along with an emerging pact with Iran over its nuclear program.

Dempsey said while the nuclear deal with Iran would likely see a military buildup by Tehran alongside sanctions relief, the region was better off with a deal than without it.

“If a deal is made, we’ve got work to do. If a deal is not made, we’ve got work to do,” Dempsey said of Israel and the US, according to Reuters. “And I think we’ve built up enough trust and confidence in each other — military to military — that we’re prepared to do that work.”

The strong relationship was “reflective of the fact that the issues which we confront about which we have common interest demand that we have the kind of relationship that we have,” Dempsey said.

“I can’t imagine a world where we didn’t have that kind of relationship, I have been proud to have been a part of it.”

Dempsey arrived in Israel on Monday on fifth and last official visit to discuss bilateral military cooperation.

He said he was confident that his successor would build upon the close bilateral relationship between Israel and the US.

Ya’alon told Dempsey that the spread of extremist groups in Syria could draw Israel into the fighting there.

While the 30 terror groups operating in Syria were not an imminent threat to Israel, a change in the could prompt a harsh IDF strike against them, the Israeli defense chief said.

“We are challenged — all of us — by jihadists in the region, in Syria, Lebanon and the Shiite radical axis; the Islamic State now functioning in Sinai and the terror infrastructure in Gaza,” Ya’alon told Dempsey.

“We believe that regarding the regional developments that Israel and the United States are on the same page to tackle these changes,” he said.

Israeli planes have reportedly carried out airstrikes in Syria in past years, but always against targets belonging to the Assad regime or terror group Hezbollah, which supports the regime.

The comments came after Israeli officials have warned recently that the al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front is sitting on the border with Israel in the Golan Heights.

Ya’alon went on to praise the US commitment to Israel’s security, and thanked the outgoing general for his personal support of Israel.

Dempsey and Ya’alon met after Dempsey was greeted by an honor guard and awarded a certificate of appreciation by the IDF.

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