Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz visits U.S. for support against Iran

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June 4 (UPI) — Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz returned to Jerusalem Friday after a quick trip to the United States to meet with officials about threats posed by “Iran’s aggressive behavior in the Middle East.”

Gantz traveled to Washington, D.C., for a series of meetings Thursday at the White House and the Pentagon.

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At the White House, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Gantz expressed a determination to counter threats from Iran, according to an official summary of the meeting.

Gantz also met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and members of American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, before he returning to Israel on Thursday night.

Gantz is the first Israeli leader to visit the White House since President Joe Biden took office in January.

Before his meeting with Blinken, Gantz said he was looking forward to discussing “the challenges that we have with Iran, with the Palestinians.”

“As far as Gaza is concerned, we do look for stability and prosperity for everybody. And as defense minister, I think the combination between moving forward with construction and making sure that everything stays secure — it’s very important for me,” he said, according to a statement from the State Department.

In his meeting with Austin, Gantz spoke of cooperation to address regional security challenges, “including threats posed by unmanned aerial vehicles,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

Prior to the meeting, Gantz stressed the need to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

“Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons and contributes to all militias throughout the Middle East,” he said. “Let me be clear, Iran is, first and foremost, a global and regional problem. And it is also an existential threat to Israel.”

Gantz said addressing Iran is a “shared strategic need of the United States, Europe, the countries in the Middle East, and Israel, and for the people of Iran.”

Gantz also submitted a request to the Pentagon to provide precision-guided bombs for the Israeli military and replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system.

During fighting last month between Israel and militant group Hamas, about 1,400 Hamas rockets were said to be intercepted by the Iron Dome. At the meeting with Gantz, Austin reaffirmed Biden’s support of military aid for the system.

Earlier this week, opposition lawmakers in Israel announced a new power-sharing deal that would replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and usher in the first leadership change in 12 years.

Under the agreement, which requires Knesset approval, Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett would be prime minister for two years before being succeeded by Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid.