Israel's Military Chief Leaves on Official Visit to the United States

Acting National Security Adviser Nagel is also visiting the United States in an effort to conclude a new American military aid package for Israel.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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IDF Chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot with Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford in Israel. October 17, 2015.Credit: AFP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel's military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot left Saturday night for a four-day official visit to the United States as a guest of the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Dunford visited Israel in March, his second trip to the country since taking office in October of last year.

Eisenkot's visit will take him to Utah and Florida in addition to Washington. In the Washington area, he will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery and will be welcomed as a guest of honor at the Pentagon. In Florida, he will visit the first operational squadron of F-35 fighter jets at a special forces base.

In June, Avigdor Lieberman paid his first visit as defense minister to the United States, where in addition to meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, he participated in a ceremony in Texas unveiling the Israeli air force's new American-made F-35 fighter jet, which made its maiden flight last week in the United States.

The American and Israeli armed forces recently conducted a joint exercise, dubbed "Noble Shirley," which brought U.S. Marines, American helicopters and MQ-21 drone aircraft to Israel. Among the scenarios that the armies rehearsed was the rescue of pilots from enemy territory and a raid by infantry forces.

Israel's acting national security adviser, Jacob Nagel, also left for Washington to meet with U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice and to wrap up the final details of a new American military aid package for Israel, which is to come into effect when the current one expires in 2018. Speaking to military reporters last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the aid package would be enlarged to an "unprecedented extent," adding that Nagel's visit is aimed at writing a draft of the agreement, an effort that he expressed hope would be successful.

In the agreement currently in effect, Israel is entitled to spend a portion of the American aid in Israel, something that the United States is seeking to eliminate. Haaretz recently reported that Netanyahu is leaning towards acquiescing to the majority of American conditions for the new aid package, and would agree to a gradual phasing out of Israel’s spending of American aid on purchases from Israeli defense contractors and for fuel. The issue is important to the defense contractors, who have warned that a change in the terms would result in layoffs in Israel.

The U.S. aid spent in Israel has not been used to develop new technologies but rather for the production of military systems. Some Israeli defense contractors said they do not expect to be harmed because they have prior commitments from the IDF to purchase their military equipment.