(photo credit: Chad J. McNeely, US Navy)
The United States will provide Israel with $70 million in immediate aid for the
purchase additional Iron Dome rocket defense batteries, Secretary of Defense
Leon Panetta announced on Thursday.
Panetta made the announcement
following a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon. Barak was
in Washington for talks aimed at coordinating strategy with the US ahead of the
second round of talks between western powers and Iran scheduled to open next
week in Baghdad.
Panetta said that President Barack Obama had directed
him to provide Israel with the $70 million, which Barak had told him was needed
for Israel to meet its fiscal requirements for 2012.
In addition, he said
that the US was in talks with Israel about the possibility of establishing a
multi-year budget plan to assist Israel in purchasing additional
Since its deployment last year, Iron Dome batteries have
intercepted over 90 Katyusha and Kassam rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza
Strip. The new aid package comes after the Obama administration gave Israel $205
million in 2011 and comes on top of the $3 billion Israel receives in annual
foreign aid from the United States.
Barak thanked the US for its support
and said that Israeli-US defense ties had never been as strong as they were
today under the Obama administration.
“The US decision to support further
enhancing Israel's security is an important demonstration of the unbreakable
bonds between the United States and Israel,” Barak said.
Berman, lead sponsor of the Iron Dome Support Act, welcomed Panetta’s
announcement and said that both Republicans and Democrats equally supported the
additional aid to Israel.
In an interview late Wednesday, Barak told CNN
the United States and Israel are essentially "on the same page" over the Iranian
nuclear program. "We say loud and clear, the Americans say the same, the
president says the same - a nuclear military Iran is unacceptable," he said. "We
are determined to prevent them from turning nuclear. And that no option except
for containment, no option should be removed off the table in order to achieve
Barak said he believes embattled Syrian president Bashar Assad,
a close Iranian ally, is "doomed" amid a popular insurgency now in its
"I'm quite frustrated for the slowness of its collapse.
I believe that he (Assad) is doomed anyhow. I believe that there is a need to
raise our voices both for moral reasons and practical ... much more loudly," he
said. The defense minister said it was important "that every possible step is
taken by world community, by NATO, by the United States, by the Russians –
Turkey could have a special role in it – to accelerate the whole thing."
said he could envision a situation in Syria similar to that of Yemen, where in
February President Ali Abdullah Saleh handed over power to his deputy after
protests nationwide. Such a solution, he said, would see Assad and his
associates step down, but keep his Ba'ath party, intelligence and armed forces
From Jerusalem's perspective, Barak said, Assad's fall would deal
a major blow to Israel's main strategic foe Iran. "It will be a major blow to
Iran when Assad falls, they are now supporting him very actively," he said. "It
will be a weakening blow to the Hezbollah and probably Islamic Jihad."