Defense secretary Hagel to host Israeli counterpart as first guest

Click photo to download. Caption: Chuck Hagel. Credit: U.S. Senate.

( Fresh off his historically tight battle for Senate approval, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will host the Israeli Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, as his first foreign guest.

“The secretary is honored that Minister Barak will be the first foreign counterpart that he will host at the Pentagon,” a Pentagon official told Reuters.

Hagel, who has come under fire for his record and statements on Israel, was confirmed 58-41 by the Senate last week. No previous defense secretary was confirmed with more than 11 opposing votes.

Among the topics to be discussed by Hagel and Barak will be the Iranian nuclear program. Negotiations over that nuclear program ended last week in Kazakhstan without an agreement, and more talks are forthcoming.

Barak will also meet with Vice President Joe Biden and other high-level U.S. officials, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Barak’s visit to the Pentagon also coincides with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference scheduled from Sunday until Tuesday, where he is the highest-level Israeli official in attendance.

The U.S. visit could be Barak’s last trip as defense minister. He announced last year that he is quitting politics and did not run in Israel’s recent election.

Posted on March 3, 2013 .