A major American arms sale will “ensure Israel’s air superiority in the future” while enhancing its long-range capabilities, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced Monday at a joint press conference with Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in Tel Aviv.

Hagel pointed out that the deal involves the selling of defense platforms never before made available by the United States to another country, adding that he had begun talks with Ya’alon about a future assistance program to Israel for 2017, when the current agreement ends.

The arms sale includes V-22 Osprey helicopter-plane aircraft, refueling tankers, advanced radars for fighter jets and advanced missiles that target air defenses.

The deal is part of a wider $10 billion package involving US sales to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, designed to provide Washington’s allies in the region with enhanced military capabilities against Iran. The UAE will take stock of 25 F-16 Desert Falcon jets worth nearly $5b.

Ya’alon thanked Hagel for Washington’s support and stressed the deep security and intelligence cooperation between the two countries.

“We are in a tough neighborhood in the Middle East,” Ya’alon said. “Iran is a security threat which funds Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. It is involved in terrorism in the whole world – Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya.”



Ya’alon said that while he prefers a diplomatic solution to end the Iranian nuclear program, Israel is prepared to defend itself by itself.

Later on Monday, the two defense chiefs boarded a helicopter for an aerial tour of Israel and its borders. They flew northwards, passing over Israel’s narrow waist, a roughly 14-kilometer stretch between the West Bank to the east and the Mediterranean to the west, before reaching the Golan Heights, where Ya’alon pointed out that Syrian rebel forces already control parts of the Syrian side of the border.

They then headed south across the Jordan Valley, flying over Jerusalem and its Old City.



Last week, the Pentagon announced it was sending 200 American soldiers to Jordan, adding that the deployment could end up being part of a larger movement of 20,000 soldiers to secure loose chemical weapons in neighboring Syria.

The US is reluctant to get involved in Syria, but is preparing for the eventuality nevertheless. •

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