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Austin Says U.S. Commitment to Israel Remains 'Ironclad'

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The United States' commitment to Israel's existence and security began moments after Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. 

Then-President Harry S. Truman recognized the nation immediately, and the United States has become a strong strategic partner through U.S. administrations of different parties and through many conflicts.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III reiterated American support and commitment during his talks with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz today in Tel Aviv. 

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz stands at podiums.
Leaders Speak
Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III speaks with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz during a press conference at the Ministry of Defense in HaKirya, Israel, April 11, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Jackie Sanders, DOD
VIRIN: 210411-D-XI929-1017

The two men covered a wide range of issues, and Austin said he was pleased with the discussions. "I wanted to convey the Biden-Harris administration's strong commitment to Israel and the Israeli people," he said following the talks. "As a major strategic partner for the United States, our bilateral relationship with Israel, in particular, is central to regional stability and security in the Middle East. And during our meeting, I reaffirmed to Minister Gantz our commitment to Israel is enduring, and it is ironclad. And I pledge to continue close consultations in order to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge and to strengthen Israel's security."

Austin noted that the United States marked Holocaust Remembrance last week. "Minister Gantz, you, as a son of a Holocaust survivor, know better than most the horror and heartache your family endured," Austin said. "We remember the 6 million Jews and the millions of others who perished during the Holocaust; may their memory be a blessing, and let it be a solemn reminder of our duty to be ever vigilant against mass atrocities."

It is also sobering that Austin's visit coincides with Israel's Remembrance Day, which is similar to America's Memorial Day. 

Two men wearing masks speak to each other while a third man takes a picture.
Defense Discussion
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz speak outside the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 11, 2021.
Photo By: Matty Stern, U.S. Embassy Israel
VIRIN: 210411-S-ZZ999-002

Austin and Gantz agreed the two nations must work closely together to enhance U.S.-Israeli defense cooperation. For example, the two countries already cooperate on ballistic missile defense and Israel flies the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The two men want to move toward discussing advanced, shared security interests and priorities. 

But the Middle East is still a dangerous neighborhood. "I … appreciated hearing Minister Gantz's perspectives about the challenges in this region," Austin said. "We addressed a broad range of defense issues, to include Israel's long-term planning for defense acquisitions and regional security challenges and U.S. support for efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim-majority nations.”

In his remarks, Gantz specifically pointed to the threat from Iran. He said Israel "regards the United States as a full partner across all operational threats, not the least, Iran." The fundamentalist leaders in Tehran pose a strategic threat to international security to the entire Middle East and to the state of Israel, the Israeli leader said.

Two men stand at podiums.
Austin and Gantz
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, left, and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz speak to the news media following a meeting at the Israeli Defense Ministry, April 11, 2021.
Photo By: Jim Garamone, DOD
VIRIN: 210411-D-FN314-002C

"We will work closely with our American allies to ensure that any new agreement with Iran will secure the vital interests of the world, of the United States; prevent dangerous unrest in our region; and protect the state of Israel," he said.

Gantz said the ties between the U.S. and Israeli militaries are so close because the nations share the same values and beliefs in basic human decency. "I find great comfort in the assurance of our people's unbreakable bonds and in the knowledge that both in the United States and in Israel, forces of good act to promote unity, solidarity and diversity," Gantz said.

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