US Air Force chief in Israel: ‘We’ll always stand shoulder to shoulder with you’

David Goldfein visits as part of Blue Flag military exercise, meets with President Rivlin and IDF chief Kohavi, flies with IAF chief Norkin

US Air Force chief David Goldfein (L) and President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on November 14, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)
US Air Force chief David Goldfein (L) and President Reuven Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on November 14, 2019. (Haim Zach/GPO)

US Air Force Chief of Staff David L. Goldfein visited Israel this week to participate in the Blue Flag joint military exercise hosted by the Jewish state.

Goldfein arrived on Thursday and met with President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem, praising the US-Israel military partnership.

“The US and Israel enjoy a strong and enduring military-to-military partnership, one we’ve built upon trust developed over decades of cooperation,” Goldfein said. “What an honor and privilege to be here in Israel today. We thank you all for your hospitality, and look forward to building on our already rock-solid alliance.”

“There is nothing more symbolic than this week’s joint operations, working shoulder to shoulder, even during the combat situations we were under,” Rivlin said in turn. “We know that your support and the information exchanges between us are a solid basis for IDF operations. Our deep appreciation and thanks for the cooperation.”

US Air Force chief David Goldfein (L) and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi on on November 15, 2019. (Screen capture/YouTube)

On Friday, Goldfein met with IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Israeli Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin, who presented the US Air Force chief with the Chief of Staff Medal of Appreciation. The two air force chiefs also flew together.

“If I have one message, it is that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you. We always have and we always will,” Goldfein promised.

Goldfein and Norkin “discussed military cooperation between the two countries, the Blue Flag exercise, the air force’s transition to fifth-generation jets as well as security, cooperation and strategic matters,” the IDF said in a statement.

The Blue Flag exercise came to an end Thursday after 10 days of drills.

The exercise pit 70 combat planes from five air forces against each other in 19 sorties across six different locations around the country. Six more countries sent observers.

The drill included the use of Patriot missile batteries to simulate advanced anti-aircraft fire, likely meant to mimic the Russian-supplied S-300 system.

An Israeli F-35 fighter jet is seen in a hangar during the “Blue Flag” multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

For two participating militaries, Israel and Italy, it marked the first-ever use of the new stealth F-35 in an international exercise, making it “the most advanced international exercise ever held in Israel,” according to the IDF.

Goldfein was in Dubai on Saturday, during which time he told reporters that he was hopeful that disputes between Gulf states could be put to bed in order for them to face the threats posed by Iran as a unified front.

“It’s certainly in our best interest to see if they can come to a political solution,” he said of the current rift between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and their neighbor Qatar.

Washington has unsuccessfully tried to mend the dispute, in which the three former countries, as well as Egypt, have cut ties with Qatar since 2017 over Doha’s alleged support for terrorism.

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