Last updated: 28 July, 2011

US voices commitment to Israel in defense talks

The United States on Thursday reiterated its support for a strong military in Israel as Defense Minister Ehud Barak held talks with top leaders in Washington.

Barak met separately with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and newly installed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Both meetings were closed to the press, with officials offering general statements.

Panetta stressed his “strong commitment” to defense relations with Israel and to “ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States wanted to compare notes with Barak amid rapid changes in the region where street protesters have toppled authoritarian leaders.

The talks with Barak, a former prime minister, were “an opportunity to reiterate our unshakable commitment to Israel’s security,” Toner said.

The United States is Israel’s main ally. But Israel’s right-leaning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has had an uneasy relationship with President Barack Obama, whose administration has sought progress in Middle East peace.