U.S. Boosts Defense Commitment to Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (2nd R) walks with Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon (3rd L) on a landing pad after a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights on Monday. (FLASH90)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (2nd R) walks with Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon (3rd L) on a landing pad after a helicopter tour of the Golan Heights on Monday. (FLASH90)

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon finalized on Monday an arms deal aimed at insuring Israel’s military superiority in the Mideast.

The package, which projects more defense aid for Israel after the current disbursements of some $3 billion a year expire in 2017, was the planned sale of missiles, warplane radars, troop transport planes and refuelling jets to bolster its air capabilities.

“These decisions underscore that the military-to-military cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is stronger than ever, and that defense cooperation will only continue to deepen in the future,” Hagel said.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Ya’alon on Monday, Hagel said that the sides had agreed that “the U.S. will provide Israel with a range of military weapons including missiles, advanced radar systems, refueling aircraft and V-22 aircraft that we have not given to any other country.”

Ya’alon referred to Hagel warmly as “My friend,” described him as his U.S. colleague, and added that he was glad about this first visit to Israel since Hagel assumed office in February.

Amid the usual declarations of friendship, however, some detected a nuance in the press conference that Israel might be ever so slightly softening its posture vis-a-vis Iran.

Reuters reported that “Israel suggested on Monday it would be patient before taking any military action against Iran’s nuclear program,” and supported that reading with quotes from Ya’alon, who told reporters:

“We believe that the military option, which is well discussed, should be the last resort.”

Ya’alon also said that “there are other tools to be used and to be exhausted,” listing diplomacy, economic sanctions and “moral support” for domestic opponents of Iran’s dictatorial government.

However, Israel, while showing impatience with diplomatic efforts to stop Iran, has never questioned that peaceful means should be exhausted before resorting to force. Rather, the discussion has been about when that time has come.