Hanan Greenberg
March 25, 2010 - 12:00am

Political crisis, but no military crisis: US General David Petraeus on Wednesday spoke with Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi and reassured him that he never said Israel's policies endanger US troops in the Middle East.

Recent reports about Patraeus' alleged comments during a Congress hearing were denied by American security officials. However, the general insisted on clearing the air himself and called the Israeli chief of staff.

Meanwhile, top Israeli security officials spoke of close cooperation with their American counterparts, at all ranks, and noted that recent diplomatic disputes did not cloud this relationship.

Earlier, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates treaded lightly when asked about the recent row between the longtime allies.

Gates said, "Lack of progress toward Middle East peace is clearly an issue that is exploited by our adversaries in the region and is a source of certain political challenge," he said. "Whether it has a direct impact, I'm not entirely sure. But there is no question that the absence of Middle East peace does affect US national security interests in the region."

Gates, together with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, said that the political tension would not affect the important relationship between the IDF and the US military.

Mullen said he had spoken to Major-General Ashkenazi twice last week and that relations between the two armies continue to be extraordinarily strong.


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