Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak met yesterday with his US counterpart Leon Panetta at the Pentagon. During the meeting, Barak thanked President Barack Obama and the US government for supporting Israel’s Iron Dome rocket-defence system.
“The level of security cooperation between the United States and Israel has never been stronger,” Panetta said. “I was pleased to inform Minister Barak that the president supports Israel’s Iron Dome system and directed me to fill the $70 million in assistance for Iron Dome that Minister Barak indicated to me Israel needs this fiscal year.”
“My goal is to ensure Israel has the funding it needs each year to produce these batteries that can protect its citizens,” said Panetta. “This is part of our rock solid commitment to Israel’s security and comes on top of approximately $3 billion in annual security assistance for Israel, ”Panetta added.
Barak, in a statement, said he “greatly appreciated” the announcement, adding that “This additional funding for the Iron Dome system comes at a crucial time for the Israeli people.”
Barak is in Washington to discuss with Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton efforts to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
On Iran’s nuclear programme, in an interview with CNN, Barak indicated that while Israel trusted the “United States and the other members of the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany),” it expected them “to set the bar at a place where it becomes clear that at least, in however long it takes to reach there, block Iran from turning militarily nuclear.”
“If the world community set the threshold that even if fully accepted, let alone only partially accepted by the Iranians, to keep moving toward nuclear military programme, that’s ridiculous, a delusion,” the defence minister added.
Barak also referred to an Israeli fear of a nuclear ‘catastrophe’ taking place amid Tehran’s attempt to gain nuclear weapons capability, saying: “It’s not about catastrophe, it’s about a real challenge to the whole world, not just to Israel. I think a nuclear Iran will change the whole landscape of the Middle East. We have to do something to block it from happening. Be this the sanctions or the negotiations or [anything] else,” he added.
Barak’s comments come ahead of next week’s round of P5+1 talks, due to take place in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.