On Thursday, recently confirmed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held his first call in the new position with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
According to a statement from Israel’s Defense Ministry, Gantz raised the issue of “Iranian aggression” with Austin, something Gantz said the two countries “need to deal with.” The call comes at a time of heightened tensions, with Israeli officials threatening to attack Iran if the Biden administration revives the nuclear deal.
The Pentagon said that Austin pledged to uphold Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) while speaking with Gantz. The QME is a commitment by the US to ensure Israel maintains military superiority over its neighbors.
Austin’s conversation with Gantz came the day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who also brought up Iran.
President Biden has yet to speak directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although he doesn’t seem to be in any rush now, President Biden said as a candidate that he would work with Iran to return to the nuclear deal, something Netanyahu is strongly opposed to.
Israeli sources told Axios that Netanyahu is hoping not to clash with Biden on the nuclear deal and is strategizing how best to influence the new administration’s Iran policy.