US plays up ‘bedrock’ of alliance with Israel

Secretary of defence Ash Carter says the recent Iran deal ‘changes nothing’

Ash Carter (right) with Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon  at the Hussein Lookout, near Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/Reuters

Ash Carter (right) with Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon at the Hussein Lookout, near Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/Reuters

 

With bilateral ties at rock bottom following last week’s signing of the Iran nuclear deal, US secretary of defence Ash Carter went out of his way yesterday to assure Israel that Washington has no limits on ensuring Israel’s security.

Speaking at the start of a meeting in Tel Aviv with his Israeli counterpart, Moshe Ya’alon, Mr Carter was eager to stress that the differences over the Vienna agreement would not harm America’s strategic alliance with Israel.

“Israel is the bedrock of American strategy in the Middle East,” he said. “Yes, the region is complicated and troubled, but we know what our interests are. And principal among them for the United States is our friendship and alliance with Israel.”

Mr Carter added that the Iran deal “changes nothing”, saying: “Our pledge to defend Israel is rock solid, and the alliance has never been stronger.”

Mr Ya’alon thanked Mr Carter for his contributions to Israeli security.

Strategy adjustment

“Even the deepest divisions – and there are such differences of opinion between us – will not impact our great friendship and solid relationship.”

The two men toured Israel’s northern border and examined the threats posed by Hizbullah, as well as developments on the Golan Heights.

It is widely expected that Washington will offer Israel and its Gulf Arab allies a generous package of stepped-up military assistance as compensation for the deal struck between the world powers and Iran.

Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who described the Vienna agreement as a “historic mistake”, says he still hopes to persuade members of the US Congress to vote against the deal. He rejects any talk at this juncture of a compensation package.

“I guess the question you have to ask yourself is, if this deal is supposed to make Israel and our Arab neighbours safer, why should we be compensated with anything?” Mr Netanyahu told US television network ABC in an interview. “The deal endangers our security, our survival even, and the security of the Middle East and the world.”

Military action

“One of the reasons why this deal is a good one is that it does nothing to prevent the military option – the US military option,” he told reporters.

Mr Carter acknowledged that he wouldn’t be able to persuade the Israeli leadership of the benefits of the deal.

“I’m not going to change anybody’s mind in Israel. That’s not the purpose of my trip.”