US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Israel next week in the first Middle East trip by a member of President Joe Biden’s cabinet.
Security sources in Tel Aviv revealed that Austin’s meetings will focus on Iran and other regional issues, as well as ensuring Washington will honor understandings reached during the final weeks of the Trump administration for the US to guarantee Israel’s so-called qualitative military edge in the region.
While in Israel, Austin is expected to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.
Gantz refused to comment on the reported visit. However, he didn’t deny it.
Israeli sources have expressed concern over negative signs emerging from Washington in the past few weeks on various issues, especially ties with China and Russia.
They added that Biden’s administration is focusing its foreign policy on the escalating tension with China and Russia. The administration wishes that Israel acts based on US interests.
The US sees that Israel has crossed the limits in its ties with Beijing and Moscow, to the extent of undermining US interests. It sharply criticized Chinese involvement in Israel, especially the depth of economic cooperation which has become strategic.
The US Department of Defense told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, through an email, that it has no announcement regarding the secretary’s visit to Israel.
This reflects the Pentagon’s keenness on maintaining the visit secretive for security reasons.