Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon: "I was delighted and honored
to host my friend Secretary of Defense of the United States, Chuck Hagel. I was
very moved, Chuck, that after visiting your own troops in Afghanistan, you made
Israel the first destination of your term as Secretary of Defense. Before we
begin, I wish to express my condolences for the deadly Boston Marathon attack.
This attack, which once again displayed the brutality of terrorism, took the
lives of innocent people and wounded many others.
As a nation with a great deal of experience with the suffering that terrorism
causes, we deeply sympathize with the American people’s grief.
We had friendly, constructive, and substantive talks on a wide range of
issues vital to both countries. The United States and Israel face common threats
and challenges in the Middle East, above all from Iran. Iran not only threats
the security and stability of the Middle East but of the entire world. Iran
threatens to wipe Israel off the map. It backs Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in
Gaza and it is assisting the Syrian regime to kill tens of thousands of innocent
civilians. The Iranian regime is involved in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan,
and more. And Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
Today’s talks were a continuation of the intimate dialogue between the United
States and Israel on the best ways to meet these challenges. In every case,
Israel prefers diplomatic solutions, though, as President Obama stated, Israel
has the right to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. Secretary’s Hagel
visit follows the historic visit of President Obama to Israel and his
reaffirmation of America’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. This
commitment is demonstrated in America’s generous support for Israel’s defense
and in President Obama’s pledge to continue that support in the future. We see
our commitment in Iron Dome and other anti-missile systems that save lives.
We see your commitment in the Joint Strike Fighter program and the
Presidential approval of other advanced capabilities such as the V-22, for
Israel. We see your commitment in our joint military maneuvers and our extensive
intelligence sharing – all part of our comprehensive strategic cooperation and
dialogue. We see your commitment in your determination to uphold Israel’s
Qualitative Military Edge. We see it all, Mr. Secretary, and we are deeply
The United States of America – as a great democracy – and the State of Israel
as the only democracy in the region, share common interests and common values.
Our relationship reflects it. I want to express my personal appreciation for
your friendship, Chuck, and for your solid and powerful support for Israel.
Todah rabah – Thank you."
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel: "Minister Ya'alon,
thank you. It has been my personal pleasure to be here again in Israel and to
renew friendships and to build a new working partnership with Bogie Ya'alon. He
was very generous to me yesterday and in our meetings today, as he noted we had
some very clear, direct conversations. And I am grateful for his time and his
leadership at this important time in this relationship between our countries and
our people, and thank you Bogie for your own personal commitment, as well as
your professional leadership.
As I noted, I personally and I know President Obama and our country very much
appreciates the strong working relationship between our two countries, and the
commitment to continue to strengthen and deepen US-Israel relationships. Our
countries share values, common interest and an unbreakable bond that grows
stronger over time. These common interests include security for our citizens, a
peaceful and stable middle east, countering terrorism, countering
non-proliferation, particularly our efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a
The United States has made clear to the Israeli people that we have a
commitment to Israel's security. That includes our iron-clad pledge reinforced
by president's Obama during his visit last month, as minister Ya'alon has noted,
to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge. We are committed to providing
Israel with whatever support is necessary for Israel to maintain military
superiority over any state, or coalition of states and non-state actors.
Given the range of complex security challenges facing the United-States and
Israel in this region, the Obama administration has made not just maintaining,
but enhancing and improving Israel's qualitative military edge a top priority.
The United States has always supported Israel's security needs. Despite
fiscal pressures President Obama has insured that Israel receives an all-time
high of 3.1 billion dollars in foreign military financing this year. Last month
in Jerusalem President Obama announced that the United States and Israel will
begin work on a new multi-year memorandum of understanding. This MOU will extend
security funding for Israel beyond 2017 when the current agreement expires.
The United States Department of Defense and Israel's Ministry of Defense are
continually working together to ensure their militaries have the necessary
capabilities in place to deal with changing security environments. These include
major advances in cooperative rocket and missile defense efforts between the
United States and Israel including Iron Dome, Arrow and David Sling.
Since its deployment, the Iron Dome system has saved many lives, and we are
continuing to build on the program's success. To date, the United States has
provided more than 460 million dollars to support the 'Iron dome' program and we
are requesting another 220 million [dollars] in our fiscal year 2014 defense
budget request for Israel to acquire additional Iron Dome batteries.
Today we took another significant step in the united states Israel's defense
relationship: Minister Ya'alon and I agreed that the United States will make
available to Israel a set of advanced new military capabilities which he has
noted including anti-radiation missiles and advanced radars for its fleet of
fighter jets, KC-135 refueling aircraft and most significantly the V-22 Osprey,
which the US has not released to any other nation.
The new radar and anti-radiation missiles, along with Israel's participation
in the joint strike fighter program, ensures that Israel will maintain air
superiority for the next generation. The introduction of the V-22 into the
Israeli Air Force will give the Israeli Air Force long range, high-speed
maritime search and rescue capabilities to deal with a number of threats and
These decisions underscore that the military-to-military cooperation between
the US and Israel is stronger than ever and that defense cooperation will only
continue to deepen in the future. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit Yad
That sacred living memorial is a reminder of the full potential of human
evil, but also the strength and resilience of the Jewish people. For 65 years
the State of Israel has embodied that strength, and it has had no better friend
or ally than the United States of America. President Obama and I are committed
to a strong and secure Israel and to deepening the historic security cooperation
between our nations.
Thank you very much."
Questions and answers:
Channel 10, Alon Ben-David: "Mr. Secretary, during his
visit, President Obama extensively presented his position vis-à-vis Iran and I
wanted to ask you about your own position, because you've been quoted in the
past as saying that you see no and I quote 'valuable, feasible, responsible
military option against Iran'… I wanted to ask whether you still think that
there isn't any valuable military option."
Secy. Hagel: "Well, I've also said over the years one
consistent thing: that all military options and every option must remain on the
table when dealing with Iran, that's been a consistent position of mine
regardless of the positions I've held as United States senator or civilian. I
support the President's position on Iran, and it is very simple and I've stated
here and I've said this many times as the President has; our position is Iran
will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon: The prevention of Iran from
developing a nuclear weapon, period. Thank you."
The New York Times, Tom Shaker: "Mr. Minister, Israeli
officials have often warned about what you've termed a 'zone of immunity', a
time in which Iran might so deeply bury its nuclear facilities that you would be
unable to strike them successfully. Has the new arm package you described today
removed your concerns about the zone of immunity? And if not, what are the other
weapons you would need from the US? And Mr. Secretary, on the flight over, you
acknowledged that there are modest disagreements between the US and Israel in
your assessment of the timeline of the Iranian nuclear threat, have you done
anything during our talks today to remove those modest disagreements, to
synchronize the clock, so to speak, and if not would it be advisable for Israel
to strike Iran alone? Thank you both."
Minister Yaalon: "Thank you, without going into operational
considerations, Israel's strategy regarding the military nuclear aspirations of
this Iranian regime is very clear: By one way or another, the military nuclear
project of Iran should be stopped. Having said that, we believe that the
military option which is well discussed should be the last resort anyhow. I
believe this way, regarding any conflict, and there are other tools to be used
and to be exhausted whether it is diplomacy, economic sanctions or even moral
support of the opposition in Iran. But without a credible military option, there
is no chance that the Iranian regime will realize that he has to stop the
military nuclear project. And in certain circumstances the military option
should be exercised. So this is our very clear policy, and of course we keep our
right, and capability, to defend ourselves by ourselves."
Secy. Hagel: "As to your question Tom, regarding your point
about whether Israel should strike Iran as I said on that trip over here, Israel
is a sovereign nation. Every sovereign nation has the right to defend itself.
That calculation has to be made by the sovereign nation. As to your question
regarding any minor disagreements about timing, what I was referring to, is
intelligence agencies always are within ranges of their positions based on
measurement of intelligence on all issues and that doesn't necessarily always
come out exactly the same way or in the same time-schedule. But I also believe I
said that there was no question about our intelligence agencies working very
clearly and closely together on this issue. And we are not only in complete
agreement on the policy about Iran but also we are in total agreement on if a
time should get to a point here where we will then have to develop other
strategies or other options, and I don't think there is any daylight there, any
Galei Tsahal Radio, Ilil Shahar: "To both ministers,
watching what’s going on in North Korea, don't you think that the West should
rapidly increase the sanctions against Iran, and even before the coming
elections in Teheran in June? My second question to Mister Secretary: President
Obama said when he was here a month ago that he would like to discuss with
Israel the defense aid after the recent package will expire in 2017. How much
money do you anticipate will be provided to Israel and over what period of
Secy. Hagel: "As to the second part of your question, that
is being explored and will continue to be explored in the new memorandum of
understanding which obviously will include funding. As to your first question, I
wasn't sure what exactly it was that you wanted for me on North Korea."
Galei Tsahal Radio, Ilil Shahar: "Don't you think it is the
right time to increase sanction on Iran because of what's going on in North
Secy. Hagel: "Well, the sanctions on Iran are, I believe, as
potent and deep and wide set of international sanctions that we've ever seen on
any country. And those will continue to increase, but I believe that there is a
rather significant metrics and measurements that give you this information that
those sanctions are causing a tremendous amount of difficulties for Iran. It is
a policy of the United States and many of our allies to work many tracks in
dealing with Iran, and certainly international sanctions are one, and they are
having an effect whether it leads to an outcome that we desire, remains to be
seen. But in any event, that is why you use all the different tools that nations
have working together and as I said the military option is always an option and
it is always on the table."
Minister Ya'alon: "Regarding North Korea and the Iranian
threat: first of all. It might be that the Iranian regime might look at the
North Korean case as a precedent to go to become nuclear.
Having said that, from our point of view, the Iranian threat is more
significant than the North Korean regime's threat. The North Koreans use the
nuclear capabilities to defend themselves, to blackmail the region, the entire
world. This regime doesn’t have aspirations like the Iranian regime; actually to
export the revolution, to gain hegemony and influence first of all in the
region, and even on the entire globe. And actually, even without a nuclear
capability, this rogue regime in Teheran is using rogue activities to undermine
certain regimes in our region, as I mentioned to be the main generator
instigator for instability in the region by being involved in a negative manner
in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere.
Thinking about this kind of rogue regime, non-conventional regime, with
non-conventional capabilities is going to be a nightmare not just for the
region, but for the entire globe. So in this regard we consider the Iranian
threat as more significant than the North Korean one."
AP Bob Burns: "My question for each of you on chemical
weapons in Syria. Minister Ya'alon, how extensive does your government believe
that chemical weapon use has been in Syrian and what do you think ought to be
done about it? And for Secretary Hagel, we've heard different assessments from
different governments about whether it's been used or not, the Israeli
government and some other US allies have said yes, the US government has said
'We don’t know'. You yourself have called chemical weapon use in Syria a game
changer, my question is how can it change anything if you can’t tell whether
they've used it or not?"
Minister Ya'alon: "We put very clear red lines to the Syrian
regime: The first one, not to allow sophisticated weapons to be delivered or to
be taken by rogue elements like Hezbollah and other rogue elements that are
operating now in Syria. We proved it when they crossed this red line, we
operated, we acted.
The second red-line is keeping our border, on the Golan Heights, secured. And
in any case when we absorb shots, mortar shells, in our side, intentionally or
incidentally, we respond, and we did it. We don't allow any element whether it
is the Syrian armed forces, or opposition elements, to cross with fire our
The third red line that our Prime Minister put, is not to allow any rogue
elements to put their hands on chemical weapons from the Syrian chemical
arsenal. Now it is well-known that there is a chemical arsenal in Syria, and
this is a red line for us. It hasn't been tested yet but we are ready to operate
if any rogue element is going to put his hands or any chemical agents are going
to be delivered to rogue elements in the region; it hasn't been tested yet."
Secy. Hagel: "As to your question, I believe that my point
was, and what I said was that currently our intelligence agencies are assessing
what happened and what did not happen. I also said, as you correctly noted, that
the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons would be a game changer.
President Obama has said it is a red line. We, The United States along with
Israel have options for all contingencies and certainly the Syrian government's
use of chemical weapons would be a game changer and cross that red line."
Q: "What would change if they did use them?"
Secy. HageI: "I am not going to discuss contingency options
on what would change, what wouldn't change here, but suffice to say that the
President I think has made it very clear, and my statements have supported what
the President said, and again our intelligence agencies are assessing that issue
about the use of chemical weapons."