US Navy re­turns to Is­raeli port in sign of strong ties

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Regional -

A U.S. NAVY war­ship has docked in the south­ern Is­raeli port of Ash­dod, the first such visit there in al­most 20 years, in what of­fi­cials from both sides hailed as a sign of their strong ties in the face of shared ad­ver­saries like Iran in the re­gion.

For­eign navies gen­er­ally pre­fer north­ern Haifa as their Is­raeli port of call, so the de­stroyer USS Ross’s ar­rival at Ash­dod po­ten­tially sig­naled Wash­ing­ton’s in­ter­est in broad­ened berthing op­tions for its Mediter­ranean Sixth Fleet.

“This visit has sig­nif­i­cance. It sym­bol­izes the deep al­liance be­tween Is­rael and the United States,” said Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, speak­ing from the deck of the USS Ross, to­gether with his wife and the U.S. am­bas­sador to Is­rael, as re­ported by Reuters. “We are de­ter­mined to de­fend our­selves against the Ira­nian mil­i­tary en­trench­ment in Syria,” Ne­tanyahu said. “Pres­i­dent Trump gave full sup­port to this pol­icy of ours, and the fact that this de­stroyer is vis­it­ing here to­day is an ex­pres­sion of that sup­port.”

Ne­tanyahu and his wife toured the ship, shak­ing hands with of­fi­cers and sailors, and then took part in a cer­e­mony on­board.

U.S. Sixth Fleet spokesman Com­man­der Kyle Raines said in a state­ment the port visit “re­in­forces the strong and en­dur­ing part­ner­ship be­tween our two na­tions.” Both Haifa and Ash­dod face shelling threats, the for­mer, from Hezbol­lah rock­ets in Le­banon and the lat­ter from Pales­tinian rock­ets from the Gaza Strip. In his state­ment, Raines did not re­fer to any such threat specif­i­cally, but said: “We con­duct ex­ten­sive anal­y­sis of all port fa­cil­i­ties and com­mu­ni­ties where our ships pull into and have the abil­ity to ad­just our force pro­tec­tion mea­sures as nec­es­sary to en­sure the safety of our sailors.” While the U.S. has al­ways been a strong ally of Is­rael, re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries have en­hanced un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. Dur­ing his 2016 elec­tion cam­paign, Trump sig­naled his pres­i­dency would be a boon for Is­rael and tough on Pales­tini­ans. Trump has stead­fastly backed Is­rael at the U.N., rec­og­nized Jerusalem as Is­rael’s cap­i­tal and moved the em­bassy there, rev­ers­ing decades of U.S. pol­icy. The U.S. de­ci­sion on with­drawal from the nu­clear deal and eco­nomic pres­sure through sanc­tions on Iran has re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant sup­port from Is­rael.

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