Panetta meets with Israeli defense minister

The Pentagon said the two defense chiefs spoke Wednesday about “the U.S.-Israel defense relationship and a range of regional issues including Syria, Iran and the ongoing changes in the Middle East.”

But the two countries have not appeared to be on the same page about Iran, which the United States, Israel and others accuse of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, which Iran denies.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that an Israeli strike on Iran could be “destabilizing,” a statement that riled Israeli officials. Dempsey said at a congressional hearing Tuesday that he did not counsel the Israelis against attacking.

The U.S.-Israel relationship and how they move forward on Iran will come to a head on Monday when Obama and Netanyahu meet. Both leaders will also speak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference this weekend.

Panetta and Barak’s meeting Wednesday was the latest in a parade of back-and-forth meetings between Israeli and U.S. officials in recent weeks. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Dempsey both visited Israel in recent weeks, and Wednesday’s Panetta-Barak meeting was their fourth since Panetta took over at the Pentagon in July.