Daily Israel Report
Show More

OpEds


Dempsey Visit Reveals Warmth of US-Israel Military Relationship

Analysis: what we can glean from the body language of the visiting general's photo-ops?
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 3/31/2014, 9:17 AM

Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, met with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon Sunday, in the presence of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz. He is to meet Gantz separately Monday.

Dempsey was also greeted on two separate occasions Sunday by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who also sat with him in the presence of Gantz.

Official media offices released only partial video of the events, mostly without audio.

What can be gleaned from the little we see and hear?

 

One thing that stands out from Netanyahu's first meeting with Dempsey is the fact that Netanyahu appears almost to physically pounce on the visiting general, effectively pushing him backward two steps. This could look like aggressive body language on the part of the prime minister, but the more likely explanation is that Netanyahu is wordlessly nudging Dempsey toward the spot between the US and Israel flags, where he knows the cameramen will want him to be.

The fact that Netanyahu feels comfortable enough to do this, however, without being concerned that he may offend Dempsey, is a telling sign of trust between the men. It also appears to point at a large degree of general confidence on the part of Israeli prime minister, in the presence of the top US soldier.

 

Netanyahu and Dempsey meet again in another video, and appear to enjoy a small joke between them, as they pretend to meet for the first time. Netanyahu asks Dempsey something – possibly a tongue-in-cheek “have we met?” – to which Dempsey answers “I don't know... you must be a very popular figure for photographs.”

When Dempsey meets Gantz, and the Israeli general asks him “how are you?” – Dempsey answers “good! You know how I am, and I know how you are.” Dempsey later joked in front of the cameras that his wife has been complaining that he spends more time talking to Gantz than to her.

After having been “pushed into place” by Netanyahu, Dempsey is ready to show Gantz some leadership, however. "I think they want us to stand here,” he tells his counterpart preemptively, pointing to the location between the flags.

Does the relaxed and jocular atmosphere surrounding the open parts of the meetings mirror a similar mood in the closed-door security talks between the US and Israel, with the Iranian threat looming in the background, and P5+1 talks with Iran at a critical phase? That is the key question, to which we have no answer. 

But either way, the body language contrasts significantly with the markedly more tense relationship between the two countries' political echelons, as the Obama administration continues to apply pressure on Israel to make concessions to the PA - amid veiled threats of diplomatic isolation and boycotts should the talks fail.