US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel landed in Israel yesterday on the first leg of his maiden regional tour since taking office and announced details of a new arms deal, which will see Israel receive new equipment.
Speaking to American media before touching down in Israel, Hagel implied US acceptance of Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying that “Iran presents a threat in its nuclear programme and Israel will make the decisions that Israel must make to protect itself and defend itself.” He emphasised that although there might be “minor” differences between Israel and the United States on the timeline of Iran’s nuclear development, “there is no daylight there at all” over the need to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear capacity.
Hagel went on to announce a new US arms deal worth £6.5 billion to bolster Israel’s military capabilities and also to provide a boost to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which Hagel will also visit during this trip. Israel will receive almost £2 billion in US military aid this fiscal year in addition to advanced air equipment, including a new generation of aerial refuelling tankers and advanced missiles to help combat air defence facilities. Both systems are considered important additions to Israel’s arsenal in any potential military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. Hagel said that the weapons sale was “another very clear signal to Iran.”
Yesterday, Hagel met with his Israeli counterpart, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. Ya’alon said “The United States is not only a strategic partner of Israel, but also our best friend.” During the next two days, Hagel will also meet Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres, with Iran and Syria expected to be high on the agenda.