Today in Tel Aviv, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the United States and Israel, express his desire to deepen ties between the two countries, and discuss the recent escalation in tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.
Secretary Austin expressed his commitment to Israel's right to self-defense and to U.S. security assistance to Israel, including through the historic $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding. The Secretary also reaffirmed the ironclad U.S. commitment to Israel's security and qualitative military edge.
The two leaders discussed the threats posed by Iran in the region and agreed to increase cooperation to confront Iranian aggression. Secretary Austin reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. The leaders also discussed regional security challenges and opportunities to expand Israel's regional partnerships.
During the meeting, Secretary Austin also highlighted the lethal consequences of Russia's expanding military cooperation with Iran in Ukraine, where the use of lethal attack drones is killing innocent civilians and the negative implications this trend poses for the Middle East region — to include Russia providing technology to Iran in exchange for its assistance.
Secretary Austin offered condolences to the Prime Minister for the recent victims of terrorism and reaffirmed his commitment to Israel's right to defend itself against such attacks. The Secretary emphasized the importance of implementing commitments made by Israeli and Palestinian senior officials in Aqaba, Jordan on February 26, and urged immediate steps to de-escalate violence and work towards a just and lasting peace. Secretary Austin called for a halt in unilateral actions that undermine the enduring goal of two states with Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice, and dignity.