Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in Washington DC Thursday, as Israel looks to the US for the replenishment of its Iron Dome missile defense system.
In a joint statement with Austin, Gantz touted the Iron Dome’s record, saying the system had succeeded in downing 1,400 rockets fired by Gaza terrorists in last month’s conflict with the Hamas terrorist organization.
“Two weeks ago, Israel came out of a recent round in Gaza it did not wish for, after Hamas, a terrorist organization, opened fire on our civilians.”
“While Hamas aimed thousands of rockets at our civilian population -- Jews, Arabs, and Christians-- the IDF used its excellent intelligence, precise munitions and strict procedure, to strike directly at Hamas’ military targets.”
“Our Iron Dome defense system saved hundreds of Israeli lives, intercepting over 1,400 rockets that were aimed at residential neighborhoods, shopping centers, and hospitals.”
“I would like to thank you, Secretary Austin, and the entire Biden administration, for supporting Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, and for maintaining Israel’s QME, which ensures stability in our region.”
Gantz also welcomed US efforts to encourage regional diplomacy, which he said could delay the next round of fighting with Gaza.
“This moment of challenge also brings opportunity for change. Following the military effort, it’s now time for diplomacy, which can help prevent or delay another military campaign. The United States and other moderate countries in our region would have a major role in ensuring the success of this process.”
“These very days, Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons, and continues to arm militias throughout the Middle East. Let me be clear - Iran is first and foremost a global and regional problem, and it is also an existential threat to Israel, as its leaders openly declare.”
“I am well aware of the important dialogue about a future agreement to stop its nuclear armament. Stopping Iran is certainly a shared strategic need of the U.S., Europe, the countries of the Middle East, and Israel, and, for the people of Iran as well.”
Secretary Austin said the Biden administration remains committed to Israeli security and to the Jewish state’s “qualitative military edge”, while also emphasizing the administration’s solid support for Palestinian statehood and the two-state solution.
“Before we start, I wanted to reiterate that the administration's commitment to Israel's security is ironclad. We are committed to maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge and ensuring that Israel can defend itself against regional threats, such as those posed by Iran, its proxies, and terrorist groups. The administration fully supports your country's right to defend itself against rockets, rocket attacks fired indiscriminately by Hamas, and other Gaza-based militants against Israeli civilians.”
“And I want to personally thank you again, Minister Gantz, for your role in implementing the cease-fire with Hamas. As you know, the president has expressed his full support for replenishing Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system which saved so many innocent lives during the most recent conflict.”
“Now going forward, we seek lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians alike. And I want to stress the importance of reducing tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem and of supporting humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for Gaza that benefits the innocent people who live ‘there.”
Let me also stress that the Department of Defense supports President Biden's goal of a two-state solution. As my colleague Secretary Blinken made clear in Israel last week, a lot of work needs to be done to rebuild confidence and trust and to create conditions to reengage in a meaningful way on the path to a two-state solution. I am personally committed to supporting that work.”