U.S. Defense Sec’y Meets Bennett, Commits to Israel’s Defense Against Iran

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the PM’s Office in Yerushalayim, on April 12, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with American Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington DC to discuss mutual security interests on Wednesday, Ynet reported.

Austin previously visited Israel in April, the first Biden official to do so.

Austin told Bennett that the Biden “administration is committed to Israel’s security and its right to self-defense.”

He added, “Iran must be held accountable for acts of aggression in the Middle East and on international waters,” referring to the July 30 drone attack on the Mercer Street oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, which was owned by British companies and operated by Israelis. The U.K., Israel and the U.S. have all accused Iran of being behind the attack.

“The Department of Defense is also committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge, and to ensure that Israel can defend itself against threats from Iran, its proxies and terrorist groups,” Austin said, referring to the U.S. agreement to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome antirocket system, which he praised for “saving innocent lives.

“We are working closely with Congress to provide all the necessary information to respond positively to your request to provide $1 billion in emergency funding,” Austin said.

The U.S. and Israel signed a 10-year security funding deal worth $3.8 billion in former president Barack Obama’s term. Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz previously visited Washington D.C. in June and requested an additional $1 billion for the Iron Dome system and the Israeli Air Force.

“The prime minister and the defense secretary discussed a number of regional, political and security issues, chief among them ways the curbing of Iran’s regional aggression and the progress of the Iranian nuclear program,” Bennett’s office said in a statement. Blinken and Bennett reportedly discussed Iran, Afghanistan and expanding on the Abraham Accords. Bennett told Blinken he hoped Israeli technology could be utilized to help the United States shift its economy to clean energy sources such as solar power and water desalination, of which Israel has decades of experience with, the Times of Israel reported.

Bennett is expected to meet with President Joe Biden on Thursday.