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American Forces Press Service

Dunford Discusses Middle East Challenges With Israeli Leaders

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

JERUSALEM, October 18, 2015 – The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff discussed a full range of threats in the Middle East with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials today.

The fact that Israel is the site of Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford's first foreign visit "is emblematic of our partnership," the chairman said.

Dunford also met with Israeli Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the commander-in-chief of the Israeli Defense Forces, and Defense Minister Boogie Ya'alon. "They had good exchanges and pledged to continue the close partnership," said Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, the chairman's special assistant for public affairs, adding that the discussion covered all the challenges manifesting in the Middle East.

"I've been in my job for two weeks, this is the first country I'm visiting on my first trip," Dunford said at the beginning of his meeting with the prime minister. "It reflects the important relationship the United States has with Israel. Quite frankly one of the foundational elements of that relationship is our military-to-military relationship.'

Dunford met with Netanyahu at the prime minister's Jerusalem office. He met with the Israeli defense leaders at the Kiriya -- Israel's defense headquarters in Tel Aviv. Eisenkot took Dunford to the Golan Heights border region to discuss the situation in Syria. Israeli officials communicated concern about the spillover of the Syrian civil war and about Russian and Iranian efforts there.

'A Lot to Talk About'

Dunford said it was very important to meet with the Israeli defense leaders to discuss the challenges in the region, 'because I'm confident that the solution to those challenges is our cooperation. And that's what I'm committed to, and that's why I'm here today."

Netanyahu addressed those challenges in his remarks. He spoke of the march of "militant Islam." He specifically mentioned threat that extremist Sunnis pose as members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the threat that Iran-allied militant Shiites pose to Israel. The prime minister mentioned Iran funding proxies in Syria and Lebanon and the countries other destabilizing efforts. "Iran has just placed thousands of soldiers not far from our border," Netanyahu said.

He is also worried that Iran is trying to "subvert" Jordan and is trying to arm Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza with attack drones.

"There is no shortage of challenges and I think there is common agreement that we have to stop this aggression in the region and specifically this aggression that is aimed at Israel," the prime minister said. "There's a lot to talk about – how to bolster our common security and Israel's ability to defend itself against these and other threats in the spirit of friendship and partnership."

Hicks said the agreement with Iran aimed at curtailing that country's nuclear effort did come up in the discussions. Dunford and Netanyahu acknowledged there was a difference of opinion on it politically, but that both countries still had to work together to deal with malign Iranian activities.

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