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The supreme commander of NATO operations in Europe and head of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), John Craddock, has called Israel a "model state" and the United States' closest ally in the Middle East.

Craddock, speaking before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee in Washington Thursday, said Israel consistently and directly supported U.S. interests by means of security cooperation and understanding U.S. policy in the region.

He commended the stability of Israel's government and said Israel was a model state that encouraged democratic ideals and pro-Western values and economics.

Craddock also said Israel was the main beneficiary of U.S. security aid funds and was a "critical military partner" in what he called "this entangled seam of the Middle East."

Craddock's comments were unusual for a senior officer in the U.S. military, especially compared with his predecessor, U.S. Marine Corps General James L. Jones, who retired from EUCOM around three months ago. The hearing Craddock spoke at is an annual event. Jones, in his address a year ago, ignored Israel.

Craddock said Israel will receive this year more than 93 percent of the military aid in the EUCOM area - $2.4 billion out of some $2.54 billion for all of Europe and Africa.