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Iran on Washington’s mind as concerns over Israel army fissures grow

The joint military drills, continued security dialogue and visit in Israel by the CENTCOM commander, all reflect growing concerns in the United States over the readiness of the IDF.
Soldiers with Israel's Nahal Brigade take part in a military exercise in the Hula Valley, northern Israel, July 10, 2023.

TEL AVIV — The flood of warning by security tops over the damage caused by the government’s judicial overhaul plan to the readiness and capabilities of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) could explain recent efforts by US Central Command (CENTCOM) and the American security leadership to deepen ties and cooperation with the Israeli army.

The US Fifth Fleet and elite Israeli naval commandos held a joint drill this week — codenamed “Juniper Spartan” —the latest in a series of exercises examining the interoperability of the two allied military forces. The exercise demonstrated a sharp paradox: even as relations between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deteriorate, the security relations between the armies are flourishing and deepening. 

This week, in conjunction with the latest drill, CENTCOM head, Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, visited Israel as the guest of Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi. Kurilla also met Wednesday with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for their fifth meeting since Gallant took office seven months ago, which works out to an average of almost monthly meetings between the two.

Do these frequent meetings indicate a genuine deepening and strengthening of security ties between the sides even as Israel undergoes its greatest constitutional crisis ever, or deep American concern about the impact of the domestic upheavals on Israel’s military? The answer to this intriguing question is becoming increasingly clear. 

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