Top U.S. general to visit Israel amid strategy spats

by Reuters
Saturday, 29 March 2014 07:22 GMT

JERUSALEM, March 29 (Reuters) - The United States' top military officer will visit Israel next week where he will meet the defence minister who has angered Washington by criticising its strategies in the Middle East and Ukraine.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon in Jerusalem on Sunday.

The U.S. State Department has said it is disappointed Yaalon has not apologised for remarks he made at a closed-door meeting this month ridiculing Secretary of State John Kerry's push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and saying that Washington's handling of the Ukraine crisis projected weakness.

Neither the U.S. embassy nor the Israeli military, Dempsey's hosts, had published a full itinerary for the visit as of Saturday morning. One Israeli official briefed on the trip said it was likely to last until Tuesday and Dempsey may not make any public appearances.

In remarks that were leaked to the media, Yaalon, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, suggested that Israel, should it lose faith in Washington, might have to make good on a long-standing threat to attack Iran's nuclear programme unilaterally.

He responded to Washington's condemnation by saying he valued the alliance, but stopped short of apologising. (Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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