Panetta: U.S.-Israel Security Cooperation Never Stronger

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2012 — In talks today at the Pen­ta­gon, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta and his Israeli coun­ter­part dis­cussed Israel’s Iron Dome air defense sys­tem.

The lev­el of secu­ri­ty coop­er­a­tion between the Unit­ed States and Israel has nev­er been stronger, Panet­ta said in a state­ment after the meet­ing. One impor­tant exam­ple of that coop­er­a­tion is U.S. sup­port for Israel’s Iron Dome, he added.

Iron Dome is a mobile air defense sys­tem that Israel began using last year to pro­tect its civil­ian pop­u­la­tion against short-range rock­ets and artillery shells — those fired from a dis­tance of up to about 40 miles.

Panet­ta said that in line with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s guid­ance, he informed Israeli Defense Min­is­ter Ehud Barak the Unit­ed States will pro­vide the $70 mil­lion Israel request­ed for Iron Dome for fis­cal 2012.

“This is assis­tance that, pro­vid­ed Con­gress con­curs, we can [pro­vide] quick­ly, to ensure [there is] no short­age in this impor­tant sys­tem,” he added.

Panet­ta said the announce­ment of U.S. assis­tance for Iron Dome is “an impor­tant step and a reflec­tion of the extra­or­di­nar­i­ly close defense rela­tion­ship between our coun­tries.”

“My goal is to ensure Israel has the fund­ing it needs each year to pro­duce these bat­ter­ies that can pro­tect its cit­i­zens,” the sec­re­tary said.

Through 2015, defense offi­cials will request funds for the sys­tem based on year­ly assess­ments of Israeli secu­ri­ty require­ments against an evolv­ing threat, Panet­ta said. The Unit­ed States already has pro­vid­ed $205 mil­lion in assis­tance for that sys­tem, he not­ed, and oper­a­tional bat­ter­ies have proven effec­tive in defend­ing against rock­et attacks on Israel ear­li­er this year.

“Iron Dome has already saved the lives of Israeli cit­i­zens, and it can help pre­vent esca­la­tion in the future,” the sec­re­tary said. Ongo­ing sup­port for the defense sys­tem reflects the Unit­ed States’ “rock-sol­id com­mit­ment to Israel’s secu­ri­ty,” and comes on top of about $3 bil­lion in oth­er annu­al secu­ri­ty assis­tance for Israel, he said.

Panet­ta said he and Barak also con­tin­ued their reg­u­lar dia­logue involv­ing top­ics of com­mon inter­est to the two nations and their mil­i­taries. “I thank my good friend Min­is­ter Barak for his con­tin­ued friend­ship and coop­er­a­tion,” the sec­re­tary said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)