Hagel promises Israel continued aid with Iron Dome, Arrow defense system

Newly appointed U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promised Israel on Tuesday that he will work with Congress to ensure that funding for the Iron Dome and Arrow missile defense systems are continued.

The promise came following a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the first with a foreign counterpart by Hagel, IsraelHayom.com reports.

Hagel committed to support funding for the missile defense system despite ongoing fiscal uncertainty stemming from automatic budget cuts that went into effect last week.

A senior Israeli defense official said that Hagel and Barak met for approximately one hour before spending another hour in a larger session with staff.

"During the meeting, Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel's security, including maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge and continued U.S. support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said, IsraelHayom.com reports. "He stated that the United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that window is closing.

"The two also discussed the range of shared security interests, including the need for the Syrian regime to maintain control over chemical and biological weapons in their country."