Despite the tight fiscal situation in Washington, the U.S. will continue to provide Israel with military aid, newly installed U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Defense Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday. The two met in Washington, where Barak is visiting, after attending the annual AIPAC meeting this week.
Barak met Hagel at the Pentagon, and was received by an honor guard, and a warm embrace from the Defense Secretary. During his opening public remarks, Hagel said that the U.S. would continue to assist in the development of defensive systems in Israel, including Iron Dome, the Arrow, and David's Sling, despite the budget cuts that the Pentagon is going to be forced into making due to the budget sequestration process.
The two spoke for about an hour and a half. A Pentagon spokesperson said that the conversation focused on Iran and other regional issues, and about the “mutual challenges” facing Israel and the U.S. Hagel reassured Barak, the spokesperson said, that the U.S. would ensure that Israel is able to maintain its qualitative edge over enemy armies.
The meeting was also an opportunity for the two to get to know each other, although they have known each other for over a decade, the spokesperson said. Barak is the first foreign official to meet with Hagel, who was confirmed as Defense Secretary just last week. Sources said that the meeting was "very warm," and that the atmosphere and rapport between the two was "excellent."
The appointment of Hagel came after an acrimonious nominations process. Hagel's nomination had been held up for over a week as several Republicans demanded a delay in the process in order to obtain and review information about Hagel's finances and transcripts of speeches that he gave to international organizations in recent years.
The Republican Jewish Coalition, along with countless others, has cited a long list of Hagel’s anti-Israel policies, asserting that his nomination would “be a slap in the face for every American who is concerned about the safety of Israel.”
Hagel recently claimed in response that there is "not one shred of evidence that I'm anti-Israeli, not one (Senate) vote that matters that hurt Israel."