U.S. and Israeli defence chiefs talk Iran, defence assistance

Avigdor Liberman, left, the Israeli defence minister, meets on June 20 2016 with his American counterpart, Ashton Carter, at the Pentagon. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen)

Avigdor Liberman, left, the Israeli defence minister, meets on June 20 2016 with his American counterpart, Ashton Carter, at the Pentagon. (Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Clydell Kinchen)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, and discussed Iran, a signal that the Obama administration was putting behind it Liberman’s likening of the Iran nuclear deal to the Munich pact.

“The secretary and minister discussed regional security challenges in the Middle East including the ISIL threat, Iran, ways to expand and accelerate cyber co-ordination, as well as other areas of mutual defence co-operation,” said a statement from the Pentagon on Wednesday, describing the meeting that had taken place in London on the sidelines of a conference on peace-keeping. ISIL is one of several acronyms for the Islamic State terrorist group.

Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to lengths to distance himself from Liberman’s statement likening the Iran deal, which exchanges Iranian nuclear rollbacks for sanctions relief, to the pre-World War II Munich pacts, which handed Nazi Germany territory in a bid to head off further invasions.

“The Israeli defence establishment believes that agreements have value only if they are based on reality,” the statement from Liberman’s defence ministry said at the time. The statement came after U.S. President Barack Obama once again defended the deal by noting that some Israeli officials had confirmed it reduced for now the threat of a nuclear Iran and was considered impolitic, especially as the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration are putting the final touches on an agreement extending and expanding U.S. defence assistance to Israel for another decade.

Defence assistance was also addressed in the Carter-Liberman meeting, as was Carter’s plans to visit the country.

“The secretary reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge and to strong U.S.-Israel defence relations. Secretary Carter told the minister he looks forward to visiting Israel later this year,” the Pentagon statement said.

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