[NEWS]US Army ‘surprises’ IDF chief with Legion of Merit medal
US Army ‘surprises’ IDF chief with Legion of Merit medal
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Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford awarded IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot with the Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious service,” outside the Pentagon on Thursday, an
army spokesperson said.
The ceremony was a “surprise,” the official said, though many of Eisenkot’s predecessors have also received the award.
Dunford presented Eisenkot with the Legion of Merit, commander degree, following an honor guard ceremony outside the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
The Legion of Merit can be awarded by the US Armed Forces to foreign military and political officials who “distinguished themselves by exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of
outstanding services,” according to US law. It is the sixth-highest honor that the United States can bestow on a US citizen.
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford presents IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot with the Legion of Merit, outside the Pentagon on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
The Legion of Merit has four degrees, depending on the rank of the recipient. The commander degree, which Eisenkot received, is the second-highest level of the award, following chief commander.
Former IDF chiefs of staff Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi also received the Legion of Merit during their tenures as heads of the Israeli military.
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot take part in an honor guard ceremony outside the Pentagon on August 4, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
Earlier this week, Eisenkot traveled to the United States in order to meet with members of the American military as negotiations
for the US aid package to Israel were expected to end.
Eisenkot also checked on the developments in the completion of a fleet of F-35 fighter jets, which are due to be delivered later this year, and visited a US Special Forces training base, the IDF
While Eisenkot is in America, he is being replaced by his deputy, Maj. Gen. Yair Golan.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (center, facing left) visits the Utah factory where Israel Air Force’s F-35 fighter jet squadron are under construction on August 3, 2016. (IDF
“[Eisenkot and members of the US Department of Defense] will also discuss current security challenges, the regional security assessments in the Middle East and military cooperation,” the army said.
The ceremony came as Israel and the United States appeared to be reaching an end in the negotiations over the aid package, which is known officially as the memorandum of understanding.
Following three days of closed-door discussions in Washington, “progress has been made and gaps have been closed” between the two sides, an Israeli diplomatic official said Thursday.
“Israel and the US are hoping to arrive at an agreement soon,” the official added.
Sources in Washington had similar assessments of the talks.
Yaakov Nagel (Miriam Alster / Flash90)
“We’ve made progress and closed many of the remaining gaps. We hope to be able to reach a final agreement soon,” a senior official told Reuters after the talks concluded on Wednesday night.
Brigadier General (res.) Yaakov Nagel, the acting head of the National Security Council, has been meeting with his American counterparts to work on the final draft of a new memorandum of
understanding (MOU) set to come into effect in 2018, when the current one expires.
Negotiations on the deal have been going on for months amid tensions over the Iranian nuclear deal reached last year, which Israel vociferously opposed. Israel has charged that the accord signed
between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, poses an existential threat to Israel and warrants increased aid to the Jewish State.
The Prime Minister’s Office said last week that Israel “places great value on the predictability and reliability of the military assistance it receives from the United States and on honoring
The current memorandum, which expires at the end of 2017, guarantees Israel $3 billion annually in assistance. The new agreement is widely expected to be larger, though most of the aid can only be
spent in the United States.
Times of Israel staff and the JTA contributed to this report.