Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday praised America’s military forces for helping to preserve democracy in the Middle East, amid tensions between the two nations.
“You’ve been a wonderful friend and a grand champion of America and America-Israel relations,” Netanyahu told Dempsey during their meeting.
“We appreciate it,” he said. “I want to take this opportunity to also express our respect and deep admiration for America’s fighting men and women.”
“We know you’re extended around the world, including in our region,” Netanyahu added. “We know we have no better friends than the American people, the American governments, the American fighting men and women. You fight for America, but you also fight for freedom.”
Dempsey returned the favor on Thursday by praising the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
“The greatest gift has been the friendship we’ve managed to forge with the leaders in the IDF, and I know you’re proud of them but we are too,” he said. “It’s our Constitution, and you know, that’s what inspires us — as I know service to your nation inspires you.”
Dempsey arrived in Israel on Monday for his sixth and final official visit there, The Times of Israel said.
His visit aims to reaffirm close ties between the two nations, it added.
Netanyahu has clashed with President Obama in recent months over a variety of foreign policy issues.
The pair of world leaders have disagreed on a nuclear deal with Iran and the existence of a Palestinian state, among other topics.
The White House on Tuesday also praised a Supreme Court decision that struck down a law permitting Americans born in Jerusalem to list Israel as their birthplace.
“The court’s decision upholds the president’s long-standing authority to make these sensitive recognition determinations as part of his conduct of diplomacy and foreign policy,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who was also in the meeting with Dempsey, declined to criticize the Supreme Court's ruling directly, though he noted that the status of Jerusalem "is not an issue for them to decide."
"We respect the decision of the Supreme Court, and note that its decision is not about whether or not Jerusalem is part of Israel, but rather that it is not an issue for them to decide. However I must mention, I am a seventh generation Jerusalemite, and even though I was born nine years before the State of Israel was established, I was born in Jerusalem, and I was born in Israel."
Dempsey first met Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Tuesday during his trip to Israel.
He informed the Israeli military leader that the U.S. would help his nation ensure its “qualitative military edge” in the Middle East, The Times of Israel added.
— This story was updated at 10:42 a.m.