Hagel: Israel is America’s Closest Friend and Ally in the Middle East

— by John Tackeff

In a speech at the Washington Institute on Thursday night, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reaffirmed the close relationship between the United States and Israel:

Israel is America’s closest friend and ally in the Middle East. During a series of meetings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with a former Washington Institute fellow, Minister of Defense Ya’alon, President Peres, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, I conveyed our continued commitment to enhancing defense cooperation — which has reached unprecedented levels in recent years.

More after the jump.
Secretary Hagel made it clear that Israel has the full right to defend itself, and that the collaboration between the United States and Israel is as strong as ever:

One of the core principles of U.S.-Israel security cooperation is America’s commitment to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge — it s capacity to defeat any threat or combination of threats from state or non-state actors. As I emphasized during the trip, Israel is a sovereign nation and has the right to defend itself.

The Department of Defense works closely with the Ministry of Defense to develop and field the versatile range of advanced capabilities Israel needs to defend its people and its interests. One current example, among many, is our close cooperation on rocket and missile defense efforts — including Iron Do me, Arrow, and David’s Sling.

Beyond rocket and missile defense cooperation, DoD has been working for more than a year to increase Israel’s ability to confront and respond to a range of other threats. These efforts culminated in our announcement last month that the United States has agreed to release a package of advanced new capabilities, including anti-radiation missiles and more effective radars for its fleet of fighter jets, KC-135 refueling aircraft and the V-22 Osprey. Along with Israel’s status as the only Middle Eastern nation participating in the Joint Strike Fighter program, this new capabilities package will significantly upgrade their qualitative military edge.

Hagel also noted that the Obama administration is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and stressed that no option of doing so is off the table:

The United States will continue to lead diplomatic efforts and international economic sanctions to pressure Iran into abandoning the pursuit of a nuclear weapon, and meeting their international obligations. There is a presidential election next month in Iran, and no one can predict with certainty if that might affect the future direction of Iranian policies. As you all know, President Obama has made clear that our policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and he has taken no option off the table to ensure that outcome. I stressed that point during my discussions in the Gulf.

Colorado Governor: Trip to Israel was “Most Remarkable of My Life”

— by John Tackeff

Last month, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper visited Israel for the first time. In an interview with the Colorado Statesman, Governor Hickenlooper shared a few thoughts about what he called “the most remarkable” trip of his life:

You know, it was the most remarkable seven-day trip of my life, without question. I wouldn’t say it was the most relaxing. You can’t travel for seven days and be completely relaxed. But it was the most remarkable […] on so many different levels. There’s so many things that we don’t really understand. You can read words in a book, [but] when you actually see it and experience it, especially when you’re meeting people […] I really feel that I went as one person and I came back as a very different, hopefully more improved person.

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Later in the interview, Governor Hickenlooper shared that his state has a lot to learn from Israeli technological advances:

Well, I think some of the things that they’re really good at — software development, geospatial technology, aerospace and defense. We want to try to connect some of those dots. There’s also how do you approach agriculture and water conservation in a semi-arid climate. They’re world leaders in that. I forget what they said, 55 or 65 percent of the water they consume every day is recycled, the next highest country on earth is like 25 percent. I mean, they’re the world leaders on a lot of these things.

At the end of the interview it was revealed that the State of Colorado will be investing in Israel Bonds, and Governor Hickenlooper stated that he is hopeful that Colorado and Israel will be able to work together in the future:

I think that there are so many ways that Israel and Colorado can work. I mean we’re sort of the same […] Colorado’s almost five and a half million people, Israel’s just about eight million people. I mean they’re not that much bigger than we are. They’re a long way away but they have similar needs […] in terms of their agriculture and their water use, and they also have the challenges of assimilating all these different people from all over the world that we have. They have just recently the potential to become energy independent, which is similar to us. They have a huge entrepreneurial kind of startup mentality […] How do we start more businesses? I think the more we cross pollinate the two places, the better.

Giffords Receives the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award

— by John Tackeff

Last weekend, the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation presented former Representative Gabrielle Giffords with the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In her remarks, Caroline Kennedy, president of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, praised Giffords for her acts of courage and commitment to public service:

Today, we honor a woman who inspires the entire world, Gabrielle Giffords has turned a personal nightmare into a movement for political change. After an assassination attempt ended her Congressional career and left her with grave injuries, she fearlessly returned to public life as an advocate for new legislation to prevent gun violence. When others would have withdrawn from public life, she has challenged us all to reengage in the political process. When others would have given up hope, Gabby has been unwavering in her belief that politics can solve problems. When others would have looked for excuses, Gabby has inspired action. She perseveres not just for herself, but for Newtown, and Aurora, for Chicago and Tucson.

More after the jump.
Giffords released a statement thanking the Kennedy Library for the recognition of her work:

It is such an honor to receive the Profile in Courage Award from the Kennedy Library. I believe we all have courage inside us, even when it’s hard to express. I want to keep working to make the world a better place, and I am so grateful.