Dempsey Stresses 'Mutual Commitment' During Visit
US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey on Friday stressed "mutual commitment" ahead of a round of meetings with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
"My presence here, I hope, reflects the commitment we have for each other," Dempsey said. "I'm here to assure you that's the case."
Gantz, who greeted Dempsey, said "Both our countries share the same interests, the same values, and I'm sure that we can somehow work it out, together."
U.S. and Israeli officials have described Dempsey’s visit as a routine consultation between allies, dismissing speculation that it is focused on coordinating strategy against Iran.
Nonetheless, analysts say the real reason behind the trip is rooted in tensions between Jerusalem and Washington over how to address Iran's drive to obtain nuclear weapons. US officials have repeatedly warned Israel not to strike Iran.
Israeli officials, including Barak, are said to favor a military strike. Nonetheless, Barak told Army Radio on the eve of Dempsey's arrival that a decision on an Israeli strike was "very far off."
His statement was seen by analysts as an attempt to assuage American fears Israel may go it alone and launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities without warning Washington in advance.
Demspey himself has expressed such concerns himself in the past.
"We are trying to establish some confidence on the part of the Israelis that we recognize their concerns and are collaborating with them on addressing them," he said in December 2011.
“I’m not sure the Israelis share our assessment of that [Sanctions]. And because they don’t and because to them this is an existential threat, I think probably that it's fair to say that our expectations are different right now,” he added.
When asked if Israel would warn the US ahead of taking military action Dempsery said at the time, "I don't know."
The Obama administration maintains Iran's economy is in a "shambles" and that sanctions rather than military action will stop Iran's nuclear ambitions dead.
Critics say Obama wants to avoid military conflict with Iran out of fear rising oil prices and war will harm his 2012 re-election bid.