Hagel Meets With Israel’s Minister of Defense
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
TEL AVIV, Israel, May 15, 2014 Israel has had no closer ally or better friend than the United States, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today after meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon at the Israeli defense ministry here.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left center, meets with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, right center, in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 15, 2014. Hagel met with the defense leader to discuss issues of mutual importance before he visited American and Israeli troops in the area. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Since taking office, Hagel has met with Yaalon six times
“Our defense relationship is as strong as it’s ever been,” the defense secretary said.
The two defense leaders discussed the ongoing P5+1 negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear weapons program and President Barack Obama’s commitment to ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
“We also discussed America’s unwavering pledge to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge, including the provision of some of America’s most advanced capabilities,” Hagel said.
The defense secretary said he also spoke with Ya’alon about the need for continuing negotiations with Palestine and reaching a viable two-state solution.
“The frequent meetings that minister Yaalon and I have had, and the visit by President Obama’s national security advisor last week, speak clearly to the strength of our nations’ friendship,” Hagel said. “They speak clearly to the strength of America’s commitment to defend Israel.”
But, the defense secretary said, nothing speaks more clearly of America’s commitment than the concrete support it provides to Israel and its defense.
“That includes $3.1 billion per year in foreign military financing,” Hagel said. That’s more than the U.S. provided this year to any other nation, he noted, and more than the U.S. has provided to any other nation in American history.
“Our support also includes unparalleled military cooperation,” the defense secretary said, noting as an example the joint U.S.-Israel missile defense exercise Juniper Cobra, which starts later this month.
The five-day exercise involves more than 4,000 American and Israeli troops, with more than 700 American soldiers, sailors and airmen deploying to Israel. The exercise provides training in ballistic missile defense and humanitarian response. Two U.S. Navy Aegis-class ships will also participate while off the coast of Israel, the defense secretary noted.
Israel’s entire rocket and ballistic missile defense architecture is employed during Juniper Cobra, Hagel said, including Iron Dome, Arrow and David’s Sling. All three are platforms that the U.S. is “proud to have helped Israel finance and develop,” he added.
“This will be our European Command’s largest exercise this year, and it will be the seventh in the Juniper Cobra series, which began in 2001,” the defense secretary said.
Two months ago, the U.S. reached a milestone co-production agreement with Israel, raising its investment in the Iron Dome program to a total of nearly $900 million, he said. This will support additional batteries and interceptors.
Following Hagel’s meeting with Ya’alon, the two defense leaders traveled to Hatzor Air Base, about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv. There, they again stressed the strength of the bilateral relationship while speaking to U.S. and Israeli troops preparing for the start of Juniper Cobra.
Military-to-military cooperation between the two nations is stronger than ever, Hagel said, adding that he and Ya’alon are dedicated to ensuring the relationship grows even stronger.
“Israel’s security is -- and always will be -- non-negotiable,” the defense secretary said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)