Daily Israel Report

Hagel Phones Yaalon, Reiterates Commitment on Iran

U.S. Defense Secretary calls Israeli Defense Minister to continue their "close consultations on shared regional security challenges."
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 12/17/2013, 4:46 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

United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon on Monday.

The Department of Defense said in a statement the phone call was meant to continue the two ministers' close consultations on shared regional security challenges and the strong defense cooperation between the United States and Israel.

“Secretary Hagel underscored the United States' commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” said the statement.

“They also discussed the situation in Syria, including the international community's efforts to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons program. Secretary Hagel and Minister Yaalon pledged to continue to stay in close touch on these and other priority regional issues, and reaffirmed the unprecedented strength of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship,” it added.

Monday’s phone call followed the fourth meeting between Hagel and Yaalon this year, which took place at the Halifax International Security Forum last month in Canada, noted the Department of Defense.

Relations between the United States and Israel have been somewhat strained recently, as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that the agreement that was signed with Iran in Geneva last month is dangerous.

Netanyahu has explained that the Geneva deal will allow Tehran to continue its nuclear program and give nothing back to the West while Iran is being rewarded with sanctions relief.

The Prime Minister’s position regarding the deal has placed him at odds with President Barack Obama to the point that, according to one report, Obama told Netanyahu to “take a breather” from his criticism and shift attention to the terms of the final deal still under negotiation.

Last weekend, Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, hosted a series of meetings with Israeli officials in which the interim deal with Iran about its nuclear program was discussed.

Hagel recently gave Israel the credit for much of the pressure that has been brought to bear on Iran regarding its nuclear weapons program.

Netanyahu’s threats of military action against Iranian nuclear sites, combined with the pressure of sanctions, may have actually encouraged Iran to take negotiations seriously, Hagel explained.

“It’s true that sanctions – not just U.S. sanctions but UN sanctions, multilateral sanctions – have done tremendous economic damage,” he said. “Even many of Iran’s leaders have acknowledged that. And I think that Iran is responding to the constant pressure from Israel, knowing that Israel believes them to be an existential threat. I think all of this, combined, probably brought the Iranians to where we are today. Whether the Iranians will carry forth on that, we’ll see.”