Statement by Defense Minister Barak at the start of the press conference:
"I welcome you, on your visit to Israel, my old friend, Secretary Bob Gates. You are most welcome here.
We had a good, extensive discussion. We covered a range of strategic and security issues, including the challenges and threats to the Middle East security. The close bilateral relationship between Israel and the U.S, is based on common values, friendship and cooperation. We highly appreciate the commitment of the U.S to the security of Israel, enabling it to maintain its qualitative military edge.
We also discussed the prospects of a regional peace in the Middle East, the need to shape a structure for a regional security arrangements, when the time comes, and I express to the secretary our interest in having a breakthrough in the peace process and ending of security and defense issues, being at the top priorities of everyone, but that will clearly take time.
The Iranian nuclear program is a central issue in our minds. We do welcome a concrete effective and time framed international plan, under the leadership of the U.S., to block the Iranian nuclear program. We have worries that the continuing of the Iranian program could destabilize the whole region, which will threaten the stability and peace in our region and beyond.
I take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the friendship showed by the U.S., and by you Mr. Secretary, both previously and in the present. We are looking forward to more open discussions in the future to try and help the Middle East to become a more stable and peaceful region."
Mr. Minister, is the U.S asking you to place your nation at risk if you hold back on a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities and for secretary Gates how long is it appropriate to ask Israel to be patient?
"I don’t think that it makes any sense at this stage to talk about it. Our position is very clear, we are in no position to tell the administration whether to run an engagement with Iran or not, but if there is an engagement, we believe it should be short in time, objective, well defined, forward by sanctions that won't take too much time to clarify whether Iran is trying to deceive the whole world or is sincerely ready to cooperate. We clearly believe that no option should be removed from the table. This is our policy. We recommend other to take the same positions."
Regarding the time schedule President Obama has allotted to the dialogue with Iran -
We are not in a position to tell the U.S. whether to enter a dialogue with Iran or not. But, we continue to clarify - in closed talks with the Americans as well - that our position is that a dialogue of this nature must be limited in time, and should be able to determine whether the Iranians are serious or not.
In our opinion, sanctions that are much more meaningful than those currently imposed should be prepared in advance, preferably in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
We are not hiding our position that no option should be removed from the table, and suggest that the others operate in a similar manner, and we mean what we say."
Regarding the defense umbrella that Secretary of State Clinton mentioned this week.
"We prefer always to defend Israel ourselves. We are extremely grateful to both the current and previous U.S. administrations, and for the technological and financial assistance. We prefer to receive the gear and the support, and defend Israel ourselves, under our own responsibility. We are not blind to the fact that our actions also influence our neighbors and others, and take this into account, but at the end of the day, we are committed to the national security interests of Israel.
It is always good to know that the United States, leader of the free world and the strongest power in the world, is on the side of free, moderate, nations and opposes troublesome entities in the Middle East."