So yes, Chuck Hagel fumbled at his hearings and said "containment" when he should have said "prevention", and we all got instant degrees in Freudian analysis and we knew what would come next.
Except, not. Not next, anyway.
First, there are these pictures from his meeting today with Ehud Barak:
More substantively, there is Hagel’s statement, which reads like an anxiety checklist. My italics:
Secretary Hagel hosted Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak today at the Pentagon for his first meeting with a foreign counterpart since taking office as Secretary of Defense. Secretary 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.
Secretary Hagel and Minister Barak agreed that the United States-Israeli defense relationship has never been stronger than during the Obama administration and that both nations will continue this unprecedented close cooperation.
The leaders discussed the range of security interests shared by the U.S. and Israel, including the need for the Syrian regime to maintain control over chemical and biological weapons in their country; the leaders pledged to continue U.S.-Israel contingency planning to counter that potential threat.
Regarding Iran, Secretary Hagel reiterated that President Obama is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon with all options on the table. He stated that the United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that window is closing.
Secretary Hagel noted the two have had an outstanding working relationship dating back to Minister Barak’s days as Prime Minister and he thanked Minister Barak for his kind words at the AIPAC policy conference. Secretary Hagel expressed his desire to visit Israel soon and Minister Barak stated that Israel looks forward to hosting him in the near future.
So, funding for missile defense continues, the window for diplomacy is closing with Iran, the U.S. and Israel are coordinating on Syria and Hagel wants to visit Israel soon.
This year for the first time, the AIPAC roll call omitted names of members of the administration attending, and from what I hear, it was to keep things concise. (Names of diplomats also were dropped.)
So we don’t know if Hagel stopped by, but he sure appeared to be listening in — his statement is replete with the lobby’s talking points.
Okay, maybe the other shoe will yet drop — a real crisis could precipitate tension. But it begs the question of why a supposedly Israel-hostile defense secretary in a presidency’s second term would trip over himself after confirmation to get all huggy with Ehud Barak. It sends a message, of course — but in diplo-world, and not to get too McLuhanesque, the message often is the message: The U.S.-Israel security relationship remains unaffected.
That message also was conveyed in the statements put out by Barak’s office (which did a little tripping over itself, trying to work out whether it should transliterate "Charles" or "Chuck" and splitting the difference) and by the Israeli embassy. My translation:
Defense Minister Ehud Barak today met in Washington with U.S. Secretary of Defense Charles ("Chuck") Hagel.
The two discussed central Middle East issues preoccupying the defense establishments of Israel and the United States and joint challenges for both countries, the most central of which is the Iranian issue.
The defense minister and the defense secretary reiterated the importance of developing the speciali relationship between the U.S. and Israel defense establishments.
The defense minister wished Defense Secretary Hagel success in his role and added that he is certain that he will continue to serve the American people as he has his entire public life.
The embassy adds a quote from Ambassador Michael Oren, who was present at the summit:
I’ve worked with two secretaries of defense and I’ve seen how security and defense relationships become stronger and closer. I am certain that these relationships will continue and become even deeper during the term of Secratary Hagel. We expect to work with him and with President Obama to overcome the shared challenges facing both nations.
Photos by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo courtesy of the Defense Department