U.S. Military Chief to Visit Israel

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The chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff is heading to Israel for talks on mutual strategic interests after Israel's defense minister upset Washington with remarks criticizing U.S. foreign policy.

"General Martin Dempsey will be departing this weekend for a visit to Israel," an Israeli military statement said.

The focus of discussions with his Israeli counterparts "will be on issues of mutual strategic interest, while continuing to build on this important defense relationship," it said.

"In Israel, the chairman will meet with the Israel Defense Forces as part of the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel's security, and will discuss issues of strategic importance."

The statement gave no details, but Israeli public radio said Dempsey would meet Sunday with Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who earlier this month enraged U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by saying Washington's foreign policy showed weakness in global hotspots.

Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to complain and Yaalon then phoned U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

"There was in my comments no criticism or intention to offend the United States," Yaalon's office quoted him as telling his U.S. counterpart.

"The strategic relations between our countries is of supreme importance as are personal relations at every level. I highly value the relations between Israel and the United States."

But several days after Yaalon's remarks in a speech at Tel Aviv University, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington was still waiting for an apology.

"We are disappointed with the lack of an apology for Defense Minister Yaalon's comments," she said.

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