In 2012, the Obama administration wanted to try and stop Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. As a result, and over a period of several months, every week or so, another top defense official would arrive in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for meetings with the IDF top brass and the prime minister. At the time, US officials called it “Bibi Sitting.”
This came to mind on Sunday when US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley landed in Israel for just a few hours to meet with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
His visit came just a week after US Air Force commander Gen. David Goldfein was in Israel, and two weeks after the commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) Gen. Kenneth McKenzie was in town. In between, USAFE (United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa) Commander Gen. Jeffery L. Harrigian was also here.
Last Wednesday, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett spoke on the phone with US Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
But Bennett, who took on the role of Defense Minister from Netanyahu last week, did not meet with Milley. He was on Israel’s northern border along with Netanyahu, Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir and the Head of the Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Amir Baram sending a warning to Iran.
“Our message to those Iranian terror forces in Syria: You have nothing to look for here. You have nothing to try to establish. For everything you try to do here – you will encounter a strong, determined IDF that will hurt you. To Iran’s leaders, we say: Focus on your citizens, on improving their lives, and not on an unsuccessful attempt to harm Israeli citizens.”
McKenzie’s visit was particularly interesting. Israel is part of the US European Command (EUCOM) and his visit – one of just a handful by CENTCOM commanders over the years – shows a need for coordination amid growing threats in the region. Over the weekend, McKenzie warned that Iran was planning another large-scale attack in the Middle East, similar to the one it carried out against Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in September.
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