US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is hugged by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon at an Honor Cordon at the Pentagon, October 21.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon reacted to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's departure by calling him a “true friend of Israel,” words that stood starkly in contrast to the way Hagel was perceived by some in Washington prior to his appointment two years ago.
Ya’alon said that Hagel’s contribution to Israel’s security establishment and to the ties between Jerusalem and Washington have been “large and significant.”
Ya’alon developed a close relationship with Hagel, even as the defense minister’s relationship with the White House and Secretary of State John Kerry deteriorated because of criticism he voiced of Kerry and US policy on the Palestinian track.
“Over the last two years the relationship between Chuck Hagel and myself has been open, genuine and very friendly, and characterizes the special relationship between the Israeli and American security establishments,” he said.
He described that relationship as “deep and intimate, and unprecedented in its scope and contribution to Israel’s security and strength.”
Ya’alon, who met Hagel in Washington last month during a trip during on which he was snubbed by the White House, said that the US was Israel’s greatest friend and a source of “strategic support.”
“Chuck Hagel and the American security establishment that served under him were an example of this link through their uncompromising support, the exchange of intelligence and knowledge, and in the extensive and quality military aid the US gives Israel,” Ya’alon said.
Ya’alon thanked Hagel “in the name of the Israeli government and the country’s citizens” for his contribution to strengthening Israel and for a “willingness to help at any time.”