Daily Israel Report

Yaalon Meets Hagel: The U.S. is Our Best Friend

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon meets with his visiting American counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 4/22/2013, 5:42 AM

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon speaks with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
Flash 90

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon met on Sunday evening with his visiting American counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

During the meeting, Yaalon expressed his condolences to the American people over the terror attack at the Boston Marathon last week, which claimed the lives of three people and wounded more than 100 others.

Yaalon also thanked Hagel for arriving in Israel so close to the beginning of his term in office and said, "The United States is not only a strategic partner of Israel, but also our best friend."

Hagel arrived in Israel on Sunday, the first stop of a visit in the Middle East. In addition to meeting Yaalon, the two-day visit also includes meetings with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The meetings will focus on Iran, Syria, and the defense relations between the United States and Israel.

During the visit Hagel is also expected to finalize a $10 billion arms deal with Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The deal will provide the three countries with missiles, warplanes and troop transports to help them counter any future threat from Iran.

Under the agreement, each country would be allowed to purchase advanced armaments from American contractors. In the case of Israel, there is also substantial American financial assistance, topping $3 billion in military aid this fiscal year.

Israel would buy new missiles designed to take out an adversary’s air-defense radars, as well as advanced radars for its own warplanes, new refueling tanker planes and — in the first sale to any foreign military — the V-22 Osprey troop transport aircraft.

Speaking to reporters before he landed in Israel, Hagel said the arms deal sends a “very clear signal” to Iran that military action remains an option on the table.

“I don’t think there’s any question that’s another very clear signal to Iran,” Hagel said, adding that the United States and Israel see “exactly the same” threat from Iran, although the two differ on the time line for the need to intervene with military action.

The defense secretary underscored his view that as a sovereign nation, Israel has the right to decide for itself whether and when to pre-empt any attack from Iran.

“Israel will make the decision that Israel must make to protect itself, to defend itself,” Hagel said.