Despite the overtly friendly appearance of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s visit to Israel this week, the NRG website of the Israeli newspaper “Maariv” claims that behind the scenes he exchanged sharp words with his Israeli hosts. The paper cites an Israeli source claiming that in closed discussions Panetta expressed his frustration over “the mistrust that Netanyahu and Barak demonstrate with regard to American commitment to stop the Iranian nuclear program”. The Israeli source noted to NRG that the Americans believe this to be a kind of “ingratitude” and even “swine-like behavior” coming in the face of unshakable American support for Israel’s security.
NRG also notes that Panetta’s visit was clearly political in character and was meant to strenghten the image of the Obama administration as an unquestionable suppporter of the Jewish State. This impression was strengthened when the Defense Secretary decided to visit the “Iron Dome” battery near the city of Ashkelon for a photo-op with female Israeli soldiers who service the missile system, which is partially funded by the United States, and is supposed to protect civilians from Gaza rocket attacks.
In their joint public statements during the visit, both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak expressed their pessimism with regard to the possible success of the sanctions against Iran. Panetta called Israel “a great friend and ally” and claimed that mutual cooperation between the two countries today “is stronger than ever”.
On his previous visit to Israel in October 2011, Panetta blamed the Jewish State for its increased isolation in the region and called on the Israeli government “to work harder to restore relations with Egypt and Turkey”.