American, Israeli Military Chiefs Convey Unity

The two military officers insisted that there was no daylight between their countries on how to handle Iran.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, meets with Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, January 20
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, meets with Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, January 20 (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

America’s and Israel’s top military officers on Friday downplayed differences in policy between the two countries. Despite rumors of discord on how best to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapons capacity, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, the head of Israel’s defense forces, said, “I do know that both our countries share the same interests, both the same values, and I’m sure that we can somehow work it out together.”

Army General Martin E. Dempsey said his first visit to the Jewish state since assuming the chairmanship of the Joints Chiefs of Staff in October of last year reflected “the commitment we have with each other, and I’m here to assure you that’s the case.”

In a later meeting, Dempsey was told by President Shimon Peres that Israel had confidence in the United States military and “that even today in a very complicated situation we can find a common ground.”

Dempsey’s trip, despite assurances that there is no daylight between the two allies, is perceived as part of an effort by the United States to convince Israel to give international sanctions more time and stave off unilateral military action against Iran.

The two Western countries suspect that Iran’s uranium enrichment program is aimed to developing a nuclear weapon. Iran has denied this and threatened to shut access to the Persian Gulf if more sanctions are enacted which would put 40 percent of the world’s seaborn oil transports at risk.

Israeli officials have welcomed tightening sanctions against Tehran but sometimes questioned America’s resolve. Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon, a former Israeli military chief, suggested on Sunday there is “hesitation” on the part of the Obama Administration to apply tougher sanctions “for fear of oil prices rising this year.”

Gasoline and oil transport insurance costs could skyrocket if there is a naval skirmish in the Persian Gulf. A prolonged Iranian blockade may lead to shortages because the United States import more than a million barrels of oil per day from Saudi Arabia, the bulk of which is transported by sea through the Gulf. After Canada, the kingdom is America’s second largest oil supplier.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn’t ruled out a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities but his defense minister, Ehud Barack, this week offered more conciliatory words, saying that an Israeli decision on whether to attack Iran was “very far off.”