U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with Israel's Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon in Tel Aviv on Monday, in the first Cabinet-level U.S. visit to Israel since the Iran nuclear deal was announced.
- U.S. defense secretary to visit Israel to discuss 'security needs'
- Netanyahu says feels obligated to fight Iran nuclear deal in Congress
- Pentagon chief Ashton Carter: Iran deal doesn't prevent military option
Ya'alon said at the start of the meeting that Israel "appreciates the relationship" with the U.S., and believes that "despite all of the differences, we share common interest and common values."
Ya'alon also said he intends to discuss the "changing reality" in the Middle East with Carter, while the Pentagon chief said his visit marks "80 years of close friendship" between the U.S. and Israel.
On Monday afternoon, Carter and Ya'alon will tour the northern border and discuss the threats posed by Hezbollah, as well as the rapidly changing situation on the Golan Heights.
Carter will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later on Monday. In a pentagon statement, he said his meetings will focus on the American strategy in the region and on the ways in which the U.S. can bolster the alliance with Israel.
Carter described Israel as a "critical friend" and "a critical ally," and said its qualitative military edge will be maintained.
After his visit to Israel, Carter will continue to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
On Sunday, Carter said he had no expectation of persuading Israeli leaders to drop their opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, but will instead emphasize that the accord imposes no limits on what Washington can do to ensure the security of Israel and U.S. Arab allies.
With my good friend, Secretary of Defense of the United States, Ashton Carter. Welcome to Israel. pic.twitter.com/m8ms1tJnMK
"Our ability to carry out that strategy is unchanged," Carter told reporters aboard his plane en route to Tel Aviv.
The Obama administration reserves the right to use military force against Iran if necessary, he added, although the nuclear deal is intended to preclude that by resolving the issue diplomatically.