Barak to Gates: Military option on table

JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel intends to keep a military option on the table in response to Iran’s nuclear program, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told his U.S. counterpart.

"We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table," Barak told reporters following a meeting Monday in Jerusalem with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. "This is our policy. We mean it. We recommend to others to take the same position, but we cannot dictate it to anyone."

Barak made similar statements two more times.

Gates said the U.S. offer of dialogue with Iran was not open-ended, adding that President Obama hoped to hear a response from Iran by the fall. The American defense chief added that he was aware that Iran could try to "run out the clock" while continuing to produce a nuclear weapon. 

Gates also reassured Barak that the United States will help Israel protect itself, invoking a new plan to provide an as-yet-undefined defense umbrella for the region.

"We will continue to ensure that Israel has the most advanced weapons for its national defense," he said.

Gates met later Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Most of their discussion was related to Iran, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office.  

Gates was scheduled to leave Israel Monday for meetings in Jordan.

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