Hagel and Barak smile for the camera

After months of allegations that he was no friend of Israel, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel promised full U.S. support for Israeli security during a nearly two-hour meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon on Tuesday, his first sit-down with a foreign defense minister since taking office.

But first, they hugged it out.

The DOD stagecraft was in full effect with a typical honor cordon (military-speak for the guards lining the entrance steps of the Pentagon) in place for Barak’s arrival, followed by an unusually lengthy five-paragraph “readout” of their meeting distributed to reporters by DOD’s public affairs team, and then a background quote from a “defense official” that deftly found a way to use the Barak-Hagel meeting to hit congressional Republicans on the sequester.

“Secretary Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued U.S. support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little, of the meeting, in the readout.

“Regarding Iran,” Little continued, “Hagel reiterated that President Obama is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon with all options on the table.  He stated that the United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that window is closing.”

In Washington this week, Barak praised Hagel in a speech at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and has meetings lined up with top Obama national security officials.

"The meeting lasted nearly two hours,” said the defense official speaking on background, of Hagel’s turn. “The first hour was held in a group session and the second hour was one-on-one.” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sat in on the morning group session.

“Secretary Hagel is committed to working with members of Congress to ensure that there is no interruption of funding for Iron Dome, Arrow, and David's Sling rocket and missile defense systems, despite the fiscal uncertainty due to Congressional inaction on sequestration and the continuing resolution."

A DOD official photo shows the meeting included Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle East Policy Matt Spence, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, and Caitlin Costello, Israel desk officer at OSD.

DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo