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U.S., Israeli Defense Relationship 'Stronger Than Ever,' Esper Says

Sept. 22, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper promised Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz that the United States would maintain Israel's qualitative edge in the Middle East.

Esper made the promise at the beginning of a Pentagon meeting with the Israeli leader.

Gantz is no stranger to the U.S. military, having trained at Fort Bragg, N.C., as a young officer and working alongside many American officers as he rose in rank in the Israeli Defense Force. Gantz was the Israeli chief of defense as his last job in the military. He has been defense minister since the Israeli unity government started in April. He is scheduled to become the Israeli prime minister in November 2021.

Two men wearing facemasks stand at the top of the Pentagon steps.
Honor Cordon
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper welcomes Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to the Pentagon for meetings, Sept. 22, 2020. Esper promised to continue efforts to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge in the Middle East.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200922-D-BN624-1166

Esper stressed that Israel is America's most important strategic partner in the Middle East. "Our partnership is built over generations based on shared values, shared interests and shared concerns," Esper said. 

He said the bonds of friendship among the peoples of Israel and the United States are unbreakable. 

The United States was the first nation to recognize the nation of Israel when it established its independence in 1948. "Across that long history, the defense relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger: We intend to keep it that way," the defense secretary said. "I do want to say upfront for everyone, that a cornerstone of our defense relationship is preserving Israel's qualitative military edge in the region. 

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper speaks to another man sitting across from him at a table.
Defense Meeting
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper meets with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at the Pentagon, Sept. 22, 2020. Esper promised to continue efforts to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge in the Middle East.
Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD
VIRIN: 200922-D-BN624-1282

"The United States is committed to that, and the Department of Defense is committed to that imperative," he said. "And we will continue to support the long-standing U.S. priority to maintain Israel's security."

Gantz thanked Esper for the warm welcome and promised on Israel's part to deepen the partnership. "As I always say, we have no other United States, nor do you have any other Israel," he said. "We will make sure together, to keep those bonds active and close to one another. It has to do with (qualitative military edge). But it also has to do with lots of cooperation that we have, we always say it is in our moral interest to share with you everything we possibly can. And we will continue those relations into the future."