Moshe Yaalon with Hagel on plane 370.
(photo credit: Ariel Harmoni, Ministry of Defense)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Saturday said the elections in Iran "won't being any change" to Tehran’s policies, since it is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who wields ultimate authority.
In a meeting with his US counterpart, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at his Pentagon office in Washington, Ya'alon stated: "We are very worried by the advances in the Iranian nuclear project, and worried by what we don't know."
He added that the international community should be "tougher" with Iran both diplomatically and in terms of sanctions, and "make it clear to them that the military option is on the table."
While meeting Hagel, Yaalon test-flew the V-22 Osprey - part of future defense packages for Israel.
Ya'alon and Hagel discussed issues important to the politics and security of the two countries, according to a press release, including Iran, Syria and Israeli-American relations.
Regarding the crisis in Syria, Ya'alon said he doubts Syrian president Bashar Assad has the momentum to win the war, stating that he controls "just 40% of Syria," adding that Hezbollah has suffered "more than a thousand casualties."
Israel will not intervene in Syria in part because any such intervention would harm the side Israel favors, Ya'alon said Friday.
“We don’t intervene, we do not interfere,” Ya'alon said prior to the meeting with Hagel. “Any Israel intervention might affect the side we support, and not for its benefit.”
It’s not clear what side Israel would favor. Israel has said it backs the American demand that Syrian President Bashar Assad step down, a move that would wound Israel’s most dangerous rival in the region, Iran, as well as Hezbollah, the potent terrorist force in Lebanon.
On the other hand, Israel appreciates the quiet that successive generations of Assads have ensured on its border, and fears the rise of Islamists among rebels in that country.
Ya'alon’s remarks come as the Obama administration says it is ready to increase military support
for the rebels.
Ya'alon said the red lines that would trigger Israeli actions in Syria are cross-border fire and the transfer of chemical and strategic weapons.
Ya'alon said the worst possible outcome in Syria would be “a chaotic situation, but we can manage it.”
He called for increased western and US support of Jordan, which has absorbed most of the refugees fleeing bloodshed in Syria.
Ya'alon was bluntly dismissive of Obama administration efforts to restart the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, blaming the Palestinian insistence on a settlement freeze before talks start again for the failure of the process.
He also dismissed as “just spin” the recently revived 2002 Arab peace initiative favored by the Obama administration.
Ya'alon said US-Israel defense and intelligence cooperation was close and that he believed it was still possible to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons through peaceful means.JTA contributed to this report.