WASHINGTON – Newly installed US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hopes to soon
visit Israel, he told Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a meeting Tuesday at the
Barak was the first foreign defense minister to be received by
Hagel, who faced an extended confirmation fight over his past statements on
Iran, Hamas, Israel and the “Jewish lobby,” many of which he renounced during
his Senate hearing.
Hagel received Barak with an honor cordon and greeted
him with a salute, which the defense minister returned with a hug. Barak, who
praised Hagel when he spoke Sunday at the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee annual conference, the official reason for his US visit, delivered a
similar message during their meeting.
According to a statement by Israeli
officials, Barak wished Hagel success in his new role, adding that he was sure
he would continue to serve the American people as he has done throughout his
entire public life.
A statement put out by Pentagon press secretary
George Little on Tuesday noted that Hagel thanked Barak for his words at AIPAC
and said Hagel himself had spoken to Barak of their “outstanding working
relationship” dating back more than a decade to the defense minister’s term as
Little also said that “Secretary Hagel expressed a desire
to visit Israel soon and Minister Barak stated that Israel looks forward to
hosting him in the near future.”
The meeting primarily focused on Iran,
Syria and American assistance to Israel’s missile defense system at a time when
the Pentagon is facing massive budget cuts.
“Secretary Hagel expressed
his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued US support for
missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints,” Little’s
On Iran, Hagel told Barak that “all options remain on the
table,” but that there is still – limited – time for diplomacy to
Elsewhere in Washington, AIPAC activists concluded their conference
Tuesday morning before heading to Capitol Hill to lobby their members of
Congress on the group’s legislative priorities.
AIPAC executive director
Howard Kohr announced Monday night at the AIPAC gala that it was the first year
activists would meet with all 100 senators and 435 members of the US House of
The bills they asked for support on included new Iran
sanctions measures, backing for Israel as it determines how to handle the Iran
challenge and designating Israel a “major strategic ally,” a unique label that
would apply to Israel alone among foreign nations.
Key leaders of the
House and Senate addressed the estimated 13,000 AIPAC conference-goers Monday
and Tuesday to encourage them with their efforts. They also emphasized their
support for Israel and warned against the dangers posed by Iran.
can never be any daylight between the United States and Israel – not ever, but
certainly not when it comes to Iran’s drive to achieve nuclear weapons
capability,” Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, said Tuesday.
As world powers undertake negotiations
with Iran, Menendez said the international community must adopt the unified
message towards Tehran that “we will never accept a nuclear Iran and you cannot
On Monday night, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor told
AIPAC, “We need to be clear-eyed that the nuclear talks with Iran cannot be
unending, and that they may fail.”
He stressed, “We need to recognize
that military action against Iran may become necessary to protect America,
Israel and our allies.”
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.
During the talks, Barak stressed the importance of continuing to develop the special relations between the Israeli defense community and the Pentagon.
Barak wished Hagel success in his new role, adding that he was sure he would continue to serve the American people as he has done throughout his entire public life.