Chuck Hagel, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, started a weeklong five-country tour in the Middle East when he arrived in Israel Sunday morning. The trip for Hagel will focus on the civil war in Syria, the nuclear program in Iran and sales of weapons to allies UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Hagel will use this first visit as the Defense Secretary to underscore his opinion that Israel has to decide for itself whether or not to use military force in Iran.
Hagel told reporters during his flight to Israel from Washington that Israel had the right to defend its country and the U.S. and Israel shared the same objective of preventing a nuclear weapon to be made in Iran.
Even though he said the U.S. was together with Israel on stopping Iran from producing a nuclear weapon, Hagel did say the two allies could have some difference on the time when Iran might decide when to move ahead with a bomb.
Hagel will first visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum on Sunday afternoon in Jerusalem. On Sunday night, Hagel will be a dinner guest of Moshe Yaalon the Israeli Defense Minister.
During his stay in Israel, Hagel is also scheduled to have meetings with Shimon Peres the Israeli President and Benjamin Netanyahu the country’s Prime Minister.
Hagel will discuss anticipated arms sales to Israel of military equipment from the U.S. including helicopters and refueling aircraft along with radar systems for fighter jets and systems for anti-radiation.
Officials in Israel said the arms deal would help Israel preserve its military superiority in light of different weapons contracts in other countries in the Middle East.