Israel has the right to decide for itself whether to strike Iran, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters on his flight to Israel on Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Israel is a sovereign nation and every sovereign nation has the right to defend itself and protect itself. Israel will do that. It must do that," Hagel was quoted as saying.
Hagel, who arrived in Israel on Sunday morning, vowed to provide Israel with advanced weapons that will enhance its abilities to strike at Iran.
Hagel is set to meet with Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon to discuss the finalization of an arms deal that will include the sale of V-22 Osprey aircraft, refueling tankers, advanced radars for fighter jets and anti-air defense missiles which will enable Israel to improve its long-range strike, aerial patrol and troop transport capabilities.
Hagel spoke about the meaning of the much heralded US-Israel arms deal, "I don't think there's any question that's another very clear signal to Iran," AFP reported.
Israel Air Force pilots have begun training on the tili-rotor V-22 aircraft, which uses rotors to take off and land vertically before flying on missions as an airplane. It can match the speed of a Hercules and refuel from it during sorties. The V-22 will improve the IAF’s aerial patrol capabilities, and can also transport troops a considerable distance.
Israel will also purchase the KC-135 military refueling plane, which will form a substantial addition to the IAF’s current fleet of modified Boeing 707 refueling aircraft, of which the air force is believed to have around 10.
The arms deal is part of a wider $10 billion package involving US sales to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, designed to provide Washington’s allies in the region with enhanced military capabilities against Iran. The UAE will take stock of 25 F-16 Desert Falcon jets worth nearly $5b.
US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel traveled Saturday to Israel, the first stop on a trip that includes Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Hagel is projected to address the two major threats in the region: the unraveling of Syria and the Iranian quest for nuclear arms. Looming large above those, though, is the hermetically sealed dictatorship of North Korea – its nuclear program, its relationship with China, and the US’s so-called pivot toward the Pacific.
“We have recently seen the results of a wild regime that possesses nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Foreign Diplomatic Corps on April 16. “We have also seen that heavy sanctions are not always effective against a sufficiently determined regime. Therefore, we have an obligation to ensure that this will not happen again.”
To Netanyahu, North Korea is a flashing red light, a warning sign posted on the path toward Iranian nuclear power. To the US, amid its quietly roiling competition with China, it is surely that, too. But North Korea also perhaps represents an opportunity for the US to engage in some realpolitik with Beijing, which, of course, requires time – a commodity that Netanyahu lacks.
The People’s Republic of China does not want to be seen as financially backing a nuclear-equipped nutcase and it does not want to offer the US an excuse to act in its backyard.
But what about Iran? In terms of China, Evron said, “there is an entire set of interests at play.”
Most tend to focus on China’s energy needs and Iran’s oil, he said, but equally important are China’s global position as “a counterweight” to the US and its self-image as a leader of the world’s developing nations.
For Beijing to allow the US to forcefully strip Tehran of its nuclear program, he said, would be seen as a capitulation.
Nonetheless, there is a chance — depending on where the Americans’ true priorities lie — that Hagel, Kerry, and Obama will offer China additional breathing room in the Pacific, and a chance to deal with North Korea on its own terms. The quid pro quo? Increased support in tackling Syria and, most crucially, Iran.
In all the jubilation last night following the capture of the 19 year terrorism suspect, virtually everyone missed news that a massive 7.0 magnitude quake according to the China Earthquake Administration (and 6.6 according to the USGS including countless aftershocks) hit China's Sichuan province, leaving at least 156 dead and over 2200 injured according to the latest estimate from Xinhua. The epicenter was not too far from the infamous earthquake five years ago when 70,000 people died, and millions were left homeless as a result.
The earthquake occurred at 8.02 a.m. (0002 GMT) in Lushan county near Ya'an city and the epicentre had a depth of 12 km (7.5 miles), the U.S. Geological Survey said. The quake was felt by residents in neighbouring provinces and in the provincial capital of Chengdu, causing many people to rush out of buildings, according to accounts on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo microblogging service.
The 6.6-magnitude quake wrecked buildings, cut power and blocked roads in Lushan county, killing more than 100 and injuring hundreds, officials say.
Rescuers are struggling to get through to the worst-affected areas because of aftershocks and landslides.
Tens of thousands were killed in a quake that hit Sichuan in 2008.
The latest quake, initially reported as of 7.0 magnitude, struck at 08:02 local time (00:02 GMT).
Its epicentre was in a rural area some 115km (70 miles) west of provincial capital Chengdu, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS).
State broadcaster CCTV showed images of injured people being taken to hospital in Lushan.
Don't expect to read much more about this: we live in a world in which hundreds dead thousands of miles away is an out of sight, out of mind statistic, while the capture of one 19 year old deranged youth is cause of edge of your seat realty TV drama and entertainment.
As for China, following the toxic Beijing smog blanket, the animal apocalypse and the bird flu breakout, an onslaught of earthquakes somehow did seem as a logical next step.
The Israeli public gave our elites the opportunity to try out their peace fantasies in the 1990s. We gave their peace a chance and got repaid with massive terror and international isolation.
We are not interested in repeating the experience.
We will be nice to leftists, if they are polite. We might even watch their shows, if there's nothing else on or they are mildly entertaining. But we won't listen to them anymore.
This is why US President Barack Obama's visit last month had no impact on public opinion or government policy.
Obama came, hugged Netanyahu and showered us with love just like Bill Clinton did back in the roaring '90s. He praised us to high heaven and told us he has our back. And then he told us we should force our leaders to give Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to our sworn enemies even as they teach their children to aspire to kill our children.
And we smiled and wished him a pleasant flight home.
Obama had no idea what he was getting into when he came here. Like Kitzis and his colleagues on Channel 2, Obama surrounds himself with people who, like him, prefer fantasy to reality. In Obama's world, Islamic jihad is about the West, not about jihadists. In Obama's world, the most pressing issue on the international agenda is apartments for Jews in Jerusalem and Efrat. And in Obama's world, what Israelis need more than anything else is for leftist Europeans to love us.
Talk about retro.
But a lot has changed since the 1990s. Twenty years after Yitzhak Rabin shook Yasser Arafat's hand on the White House lawn and so officially ushered in Israel's Age of Terror, most Israelis don't really care what the Europeans or the Arabs think of us.
The Europeans prattle on about Israeli racism, and threaten to put yellow stars or some other nasty mark on Israeli goods. They ban Israeli books from their libraries in Scotland. They boycott Israeli universities, professors and students in England. In Italy they hold rallies for convicted mass murderer Marwan Barghouti at their national Senate. And in France they butcher Jewish children.
And then the likes of Catherine Ashton expect us to care what they think about us.
Well, we don't.
The Palestinians don't want a state. They want to destroy Israel. Unable to accept this basic fact, the Americans invent lies like Fayyad-as-peace partner and try to shove them down Israel's throats. Well good riddance, Salam Fayyad.
But in their endless search for the next silver bullet, the Europeans and the Americans and their Israeli followers miss the fact that the easiest way to build a secure and peaceful world is not by wooing terrorists. The best way to achieve these goals is by accepting the world as it is. This is what the Israeli people has done. True, we needed to have our fantasies blown away in suicide bombings before we reconciled ourselves to this simple truth. But life has been better, happier and more secure since we did.
The "international community's" inability to accept that sober-minded contentment is better than pipe dream fantasies has caused leftist writers in Israel, Europe and the US alike to express mystification at a recent survey carried out by the OECD, which ranks Israelis among the happiest people in the world. The ranking made no sense to commentators.
For decades before we embarked on the phony peace process, Israel was a model socialist state. We had paralyzing tax rates and failed government industries that crowded private entrepreneurship out of the market. Monopolies ran every sector and provided shoddy goods and horrible services at astronomical prices. The Histadrut labor union owned most of the economy along with the government and in every sector, Histadrut commissars ensured that anyone with an ounce of initiative was subject to unending abuse.
Just around the time we began extricating ourselves from our socialist straitjacket, we were also recognizing that the peace thing wasn't everything it was cracked up to be. And at that point we began to understand that happiness and success aren't about what other people give you - money, treaties, a phone line after a five-year wait. Happiness and success are about what you accomplish.
At that point, sometime between 1996 and 2000, Israelis began creating large families and embracing the free market.
Today, with an average of three children per family, Israelis are the fecund outliers of the industrial world. And as David Goldman at PJ Media has demonstrated, there is a direct correlation between children and human happiness. This is why fruitful Israelis have the lowest suicide rate in the industrial world. When you have children, you have a future.
And when you have a future, you work hard to secure it, and have a generally optimistic outlook.
Then there is our newfound energy wealth. Israel became energy independent on March 30, when the Tamar offshore gas field began pumping natural gas to Israel. In two to three years, when the Leviathan gas field comes online, Israel will become one of the most important producers of natural gas in the world. Moreover, in 2017, Israel will likely begin extracting commercial quantities of oil from its massive oil shale deposits in the Shfela Basin near Beit Shemesh.
Geologists assess that the field alone contains some 250 billion barrels of oil, giving Israel oil parity with Saudi Arabia. Chinese, Russian and Australian firms are lining up to sign contracts with Israeli energy companies. International analysts assess that Israel's emergence as an energy power will have a stabilizing impact on the global economy and international security. Israel can end Asia's oil and gas hunger. It can reduce European dependence on Russia. It will remove OPEC's ability to dictate world oil prices through supply manipulation.
Israel's discovery of its energy riches couldn't have come at a more propitious time. Had Israel discovered its oil and gas 65 or even 20 years ago, we wouldn't have had the economic maturity to manage our resources responsibly. But now, with our free market, our hi-tech sector and our entrepreneurial culture, we can develop and manage our resources wisely and successfully.
At 65, Israel is becoming a mature, responsible, prosperous and powerful player in the international arena. The only thing we need to ensure that we enjoy the fruits of our labors is security. And the one thing we can do to squander it all is place our hopes in "peace."
And so we won't, ever again.
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