US defense chief Austin to visit Israel: report

Washington (AFP) –


US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit Israel next week for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Axios reported Tuesday.

Austin will be the first cabinet-level member of the new administration of President Joe Biden to visit Israel.

The Pentagon, which maintains secrecy around the travels of the US defense chief for security reasons, would not confirm the trip.

The two sides will discuss regional issues, in particular security threats from Iran, Lebanon and Syria, Axios said.

Iran and Israel have both recently attacked each other's commercial vessels, according to reports.

And Israel is concerned about the Biden administration's readiness to enter into new negotiations with Iran to revive the multilateral deal that restricted Tehran's nuclear weapons.

Also on the menu will be the perennial US guarantee that it will help Israel maintain qualitative military superiority over its neighbors, an issue that was under discussion in the final months of the Donald Trump administration after Trump agreed to sell US-made F-35 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates.