The U.S.S. Ross became the first United States Navy ship to dock at Israel’s port of Ashdod, underscoring the “deep alliance” between the U.S. and Israel, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Reuters reported Thursday.
While U.S. Navy ships usually prefer to dock in Haifa, the choice of Ashdod “potentially signaled Washington’s interest in broadened berthing options for its Mediterranean Sixth Fleet,” Reuters noted.
“We are here for the first visit by an American destroyer to Ashdod in 19 years. This visit is very significant. It symbolizes the deep alliance between Israel and the United States,” Netanyahu said in remarks aboard the ship.
“This destroyer operates against the terror in Syria, and the alliance between Israel and the United States is very tight in so many fields but it is especially tight in the security field.”
The prime minister added that the docking of the Ross at an Israeli port showed President Donald Trump’s “full support” of Israel’s determination to defend itself from an Iranian military presence in Syria.
In a similar vein, U.S. Sixth Fleet spokesman Commander Kyle Raines told Reuters that the destroyer’s visit “reinforces the strong and enduring partnership between our two nations.”
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, toured the ship and met the crew. Later, the prime minister, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, their wives, and other senior officials attended a ceremony marking the 243rd birthday of the U.S. Navy.
Commander David Coles, the commander of the Ross, introduced Netanyahu to offer remarks in honor of the Navy’s 243rd birthday and recalled his first visit to Israel when he was a graduate student. “I was able to take in the moment and see that close relationship between our nations extends much further than military to military,” Coles said. “It is born of shared values and vision. It is personal. And it excites me now that my sailors are building those same memories themselves as they take tours to visit these amazing sites.”
In his remarks, Netanyahu paid tribute to the role the service plays in protecting freedom around the world.
“American naval power has changed the world, it’s safeguarded the world. It is the force of freedom. We say we’re committed to the values of freedom and liberty, but if you can’t defend liberty, it’s a meaningless commitment,” Netanyahu said. “And since America became the preeminent force in the world, it’s projected American power, which means the power of freedom, to every part of the globe.”
Netanyahu ended by thanking his guests, “So I want to thank you on behalf of free peoples everywhere, but especially the free people of the democracy called Israel, your best ally in the world.”
[Photo: The Prime Minister of Israel / Facebook ]