Newly minted U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel welcomed outgoing Israeli Secretary of Defense Minister Ehud Barak in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, his first official interaction with his Israeli counterpart since taking the helm at the Pentagon.
Hagel greeted Barak on the steps of the Pentagon entrance before an honor guard shortly after 10 am local time giving the Israeli minister an informal salute.
The two embraced and then walked into the building for discussions that are expected to focus on Iran’s nuclear program, Syria’s raging civil war and President Barack Obama’s planned visit to Israel later this month.
Much of the difficulties Hagel faced in being confirmed as secretary of defense centered around previous comments and actions about Israel and the “Jewish lobby.”
Israeli officials have made sure to diffuse any tension that might have arisen, with Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, congratulating Hagel immediately after he was confirmed, issuing a statement that read in part that relations between the two countries “will grow stronger still as our countries continue to meet common challenges to our security.”
Speaking at AIPAC on Sunday Barak congratulated Hagel, saying, “He will no doubt serve his country in the same way in which he served both on the battlefield and in congress.”