Hagel meets with Barak in first meeting with foreign counterpart

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak this week for Hagel's first meeting with a foreign counterpart since taking office.

During the meeting, the leaders discussed a wide range of security interests shared by the U.S. and Israel, including the need for Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime to maintain control over biological and chemical weapons in Syria. Hagel and Barak pledged to continue U.S.-Israel contingency planning to counter the potential threat of Syria losing control of the dangerous munitions.

Hagel expressed a strong commitment to Israel's security, including the maintenance of Israel's qualitative military edge and ongoing U.S. support for rocket and missile defense systems despite fiscal constraints. Barak and Hagel agreed that the defense relationship between Israel and the U.S. has never been stronger during President Obama's administration and that both countries will continue this close cooperation.

When discussing Iran, Hagel reiterated that President Obama is committed to keeping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that all options are on the table to ensure this prevention. He said that the U.S. continues to believe that there is time to address the nuclear issue through diplomacy, though it is a window that is closing.

Hagel said that he and Barak have an outstanding working relationship dating back to Barak's days as prime minister. He thanked Barak for his kind words at the policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Hagel expressed a desire to visit Israel soon and Barak said that Israel looks forward to hosting him in the near future.