Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday prodded his Israeli counterpart to address what the Pentagon called “extremist settler violence” against Palestinians and continue efforts to improve economic opportunities for Palestinians living in the West Bank.
With Israel in the midst of a major clash over constitutional questions, Mr. Austin told Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant that pursuing “broad consensus through political dialogue” was critical for a resilient democracy.
“He also expressed concern regarding the urgent need for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take meaningful steps to ensure stability in the West Bank,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The statement also noted that Mr. Austin called for Palestinian leaders to condemn terrorism and take “active steps” to prevent violence.
The telephone call between the two defense chiefs came as the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu grapples with widespread protests over a controversial measure to overhaul Israel’s powerful judiciary. Thousands of reserve soldiers in the Israeli Defense Forces have threatened to refuse to serve because of the bill. Minister Gallant was sacked earlier this year over his opposition to the reform but was later reinstated by Mr. Netanyahu.
Despite bilateral strains, Mr. Austin insisted that the U.S. commitment to Israel is unwavering. He and Mr. Gallant also discussed the range of Iran-backed threats to regional security and stability and agreed to continue working together on the matter, the Pentagon said.