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Mar 30, 11:47 AM EDT

US military chief in Israel at time of tensions

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Conflict in the Middle East

JERUSALEM (AP) -- The U.S. military chief has kicked off a visit to Israel at a time of heightened tensions with Israel's defense minister.

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon tried to portray business as usual Sunday, weeks after Yaalon angered U.S. officials.

In brief remarks, Yaalon said the U.S. is "truly our best friend" and relations are central to Israel's security. Dempsey, meanwhile, joked that his wife is upset he speaks more to Israel's military chief than to her.

Yaalon sparked a falling-out with the U.S. and embarrassment at home this month when he questioned Washington's commitment to Israel. Earlier, he accused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of being unrealistic and naive in trying to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace.

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