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Secretary Hagel and Israeli Minister Ya'alon's Joint Press Conference

Speakers: Chuck Hagel, Distinguished Professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and Moshe Ya'alon
Published May 15, 2014

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon held a joint press conference on May 15, 2014.

Excerpt:

Q: It's going to be a 2-question question for you. First, Mr. Hagel, do you worry from the United States changing position in the Middle East in the last few months? And for you, Mr. Ya'alon, is Israel consider again an active step or act against Iran if the negotiation will be failed?

Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: May I ask for clarification on your question? You asked the question, do I worry about the United States changing position in the Middle East?

I'm not -- I'm not sure what you mean, changing position in the Middle East.

Q: The reduce of the influence, I mean.

SEC. HAGEL: Reduce of the...

Q: Influence.

SEC. HAGEL: I don't think our influence has been reduced. We have 35 -- over 35,000 military personnel in the Middle East. We have the fifth fleet headquartered in the Middle East. We have CENTCOM [Central Command] headquarters in the Middle East. We have tremendous amounts of sophisticated aircraft, weaponry, assets, in this region. We work closely with our partners here. I was just in Saudi Arabia, where I had met with the defense ministers of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries. Was in Jordan yesterday before I got here last night. Our partnerships, our relationships remain strong and we're committed to this region.

And I made that very clear to the GCC defense ministers yesterday, and I think my statement here and my presence here certainly makes it very clear we're committed to -- to Israel. Thank you.

MIN. YA'ALON: Regarding the Iranian threat. I believe the United States and Israel share the same goal: not to allow a military nuclear Iran. And I believe that we share the same assessment regarding intelligence, predicting what might come out in the future. We might have differences, even disputes regarding how to get to it. But we have the open channels as we have Secretary of Defense and myself, Ambassador Rice, while she was here, speaking with our prime minister, and other channels.

The bottom line is that Israel should be ready to defend itself by itself.

STAFF: Second question will be from Bob Burns, Associated Press.

Q: Thank you. Question for both of you about Iran.

Mr. Minister Ya'alon, do you believe the U.S. is too invested in getting a -- a deal with Iran? And also, along the same lines, are you concerned that the Iranians are only playing for time?

Mr. Secretary, may I ask you, as Minister Ya'alon alluded to a moment ago, Israeli officials have said from time to time that they may feel compelled to strike unilaterally against Iran at some point if they get too close to having a nuclear weapon.

How much time do you believe that the U.S. and Israel can wait before it's too late?

MIN. YA'ALON: I'll take it. When Israel considers Iranians a threat and the first priority, not just military nuclear site. While we are speaking, while we are witness the political engagement, the P5-plus-1, and the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime is still active on many areas. What is in stake now regarding the diplomacy is actually the fuel cycle of the military nuclear project. We do worry about delivery systems, the recognization part of the project. And of course, about the terror activities perpetrated, pushed, supported, financed by the Iranian regime all over the region and beyond.

(inaudible) interception of the shipments of armament from (inaudible) in Iran on the way to Sudan and the destination of the Gaza state, just one example.

But we can find the Iran fingerprints in Afghanistan, not serving American interest in Iraq, actually gaining hegemony in Iraq. In Bahrain and Yemen, in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Africa, South America, and so forth.

So, in this regard, we can't claim the United States is too invested in this issue. I believe that it should be in the first priority of each of us and to deal with the threat by all means in all fields in order not to allow this (inaudible) to gain hegemony and of course to threaten the stability of this region and the globe because of its messianic, apocalyptic worldview, which hasn't been changed even while watching the (inaudible).

SEC. HAGEL: Bob, regarding your question. First, as you know, the current P-5-Plus-1 negotiations going on in Vienna, are not indefinite. There's a timeframe on - on those nuclear negotiations. Now that said, you also know, and I repeated here in my statement, that President Obama has said that he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Because we are on a diplomatic track with a timeframe, does not preclude all of the other security defense measures that we continue to pursue outside that diplomatic track, including this relationship with - with Israel."

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