In meeting with Mattis, Netanyahu praises ‘strategic change’ in US Mideast policy


( U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis made his first official visit to Israel Friday as part of a weeklong tour of allies in the Middle East. 

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis (left) meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO.

In a meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the defense chief’s “strong and forthright words” on Iran, while hailing President Donald Trump’s “very forthright deeds” in striking Syria following the chemical weapons attack on civilians by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Netanyahu added that Israel “senses a great change in the direction of American policy” since the Trump administration took over in January, and that “this has been appreciated around the world and in our region.”

“I think this is a welcome change, a strategic change of American leadership and American policy,” Netanyahu said.

During the election campaign, Trump promised to “rip up” the “disastrous” Iran nuclear deal. This week, the State Department said Iran is in compliance with the deal, but remains a state sponsor of terrorism; Trump later said the Islamic Republic is “not living up to the spirit” of the nuclear agreement. 

Earlier Friday, in a meeting with his counterpart Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Mattis reiterated that Iran is complying with the deal, which “continues to be in force.” Yet Mattis warned this “in no way mitigates against or excuses the other Iranian activities in the region, including the war in Yemen that grinds on and what they’re doing in Syria.”

Mattis and Lieberman also discussed their countries’ strategic alliance.

“The United States maintains absolute and unwavering commitment to Israel’s security and to its qualitative military edge over Iran or other threats,” Mattis said.

Posted on April 21, 2017 .