By Amos Harel
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, will arrive in Israel soon to observe a joint American-Israeli military exercise.
This will be Dempsey's second visit here in less than a year. He will also use the time to meet with senior Israeli defense officials.
The exercise, called Austere Challenge 12, is held roughly every two years. This year's version, which will begin on October 21 and last about three weeks, will focus on missile defense. It will practice defending the country against a missile and rocket attack from the east and north - which essentially simulates a scenario of war with Iran and Hezbollah.
For now, however, Iranian-Israeli tensions have eased slightly, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his UN address last month that military action against Iran could wait until next spring.
Hundreds of American soldiers have already arrived at Ashdod Port, accompanied by batteries of Patriot antimissile missiles. America's Aegis antimissile system will also be deployed in the exercise.
Altogether, almost 3,000 American soldiers and officers will participate in Austere Challenge 12, as will a large Israel Defense Forces contingent, mainly from the aerial defense and intelligence corps. The exercise was originally supposed to have been held in the spring, but was postponed by mutual consent.