U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Israel, the Pentagon said Wednesday, in the first official visit since President Joe Biden took office in January.
Austin, Netanyahu and Gantz will "continue close consultations on shared priorities, and reaffirm the enduring U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership and Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge," the Pentagon statement said.
Austin will embark from Washington on Saturday. Following his time in Israel, Austin will visit Germany, NATO Headquarters in Belgium, and the United Kingdom to discuss "the importance of international defense relationships."
A retired four-star general, Austin served in Afghanistan as commander of the 10th Mountain Division. From 2013-2016 he was the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His first overseas trip as secretary included a stop in Hawaii, visits to Japan, South Korea, and India, where he and met with their defense and foreign counterparts, followed by an unannounced visit to Afghanistan.