MidEast

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel Stepping Down

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced his resignation today. The move was first reported by The New York Times:

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel handed in his resignation on Monday, the first cabinet-level casualty of the collapse of President Obama’s Democratic majority in the Senate and the struggles of his national security team to respond to an onslaught of global crises.

The president is to announce the resignation from the State Dining Room of the White House at around 11:15 a.m. Eastern time.

Hagel is expected to stay on the job until a replacement is named.

During his tenure as Secretary of Defense, Hagel developed strong ties with Israel and in particular with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Hagel was a big proponent of Iron Dome, and advocated to Congress to increase funding for the air defense system during Operation Protective Edge, when Israel was targeted by hundreds of missiles from Gaza.

Ya’alon said in an interview last month:

Our relationship with the U.S. is very important. First and foremost it is important to us, and I hope it is important to the U.S. too. The defense relationship between us is excellent. My personal relationship with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is also excellent, as is the relationship between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon and between the IDF and the U.S. military. That doesn’t mean that there are no disputes, even between friends. But the disputes don’t have to manifest themselves in this or that manner.

Earlier this year, Hagel emphasized America’s close ties with Israel.

Since taking office, Hagel has met with Yaalon six times. “Our defense relationship is as strong as it’s ever been,” the defense secretary said. […] “We also discussed America’s unwavering pledge to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge, including the provision of some of America’s most advanced capabilities,” Hagel said. […] “The frequent meetings that minister Yaalon and I have had, and the visit by President Obama’s national security advisor last week, speak clearly to the strength of our nations’ friendship,” Hagel said. “They speak clearly to the strength of America’s commitment to defend Israel.”

At the beginning of Hagel’s terms in office, Ya’alon provided some of the particulars of the military cooperation.

I was delighted and honored to host my friend Secretary of Defense of the United States, Chuck Hagel. I was very moved, Chuck, that after visiting your own troops in Afghanistan, you made Israel the first destination of your term as Secretary of Defense.  […] We see your commitment in the Joint Strike Fighter program and the Presidential approval of other advanced capabilities such as the V-22, for Israel. We see your commitment in our joint military maneuvers and our extensive intelligence sharing – all part of our comprehensive strategic cooperation and dialogue. We see your commitment in your determination to uphold Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. We see it all, Mr. Secretary, and we are deeply grateful.

[Photo: The Israel Project ]