Panetta: U.S.-Israel Security Cooperation Never Stronger
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2012 In talks today at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and his Israeli counterpart discussed Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta escorts Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak through an honor cordon into the Pentagon, May 17, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel has never been stronger, Panetta said in a statement after the meeting. One important example of that cooperation is U.S. support for Israel's Iron Dome, he added.
Iron Dome is a mobile air defense system that Israel began using last year to protect its civilian population against short-range rockets and artillery shells -- those fired from a distance of up to about 40 miles.
Panetta said that in line with President Barack Obama’s guidance, he informed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak the United States will provide the $70 million Israel requested for Iron Dome for fiscal 2012.
“This is assistance that, provided Congress concurs, we can [provide] quickly, to ensure [there is] no shortage in this important system,” he added.
Panetta said the announcement of U.S. assistance for Iron Dome is “an important step and a reflection of the extraordinarily close defense relationship between our countries.”
“My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens,” the secretary said.
Through 2015, defense officials will request funds for the system based on yearly assessments of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat, Panetta said. The United States already has provided $205 million in assistance for that system, he noted, and operational batteries have proven effective in defending against rocket attacks on Israel earlier this year.
“Iron Dome has already saved the lives of Israeli citizens, and it can help prevent escalation in the future,” the secretary said. Ongoing support for the defense system reflects the United States’ “rock-solid commitment to Israel's security,” and comes on top of about $3 billion in other annual security assistance for Israel, he said.
Panetta said he and Barak also continued their regular dialogue involving topics of common interest to the two nations and their militaries. “I thank my good friend Minister Barak for his continued friendship and cooperation,” the secretary said.