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August 3, 2012

Barack Obama: A true friend of Israel

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/barack_obama_a_true_friend_of_israel_20120803

President Barack Obama in Washington on Aug. 3. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

President Barack Obama in Washington on Aug. 3. Photo by REUTERS/Larry Downing

In three months, the American people will elect a President—either returning Barack Obama to the White House for a second term, or handing the reins of power to former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.

This election will doubtless turn on domestic issues and the economy will be front and center.  But, as in almost all presidential contests, national security and foreign policy issues will also be on voters’ minds, and the security of Israel and prospects for peace in the Middle East will be central to that discussion. President Obama’s support for Israel has been strong and steadfast and he has compiled a record of leadership that is second to none. Governor Romney, on the other hand, must run on his rhetoric alone—a thin reed grown more thin when he recently pledged to do the “opposite” of whatever the President has done on Israel.

While past presidents since Harry Truman have rallied to the Israeli cause, none has provided greater material support than President Obama. Within weeks of taking office, Obama ordered the provision to Israel of more than 50 advanced “bunker buster” bombs that would be necessary were military action necessary against Iran’s nuclear program.  In providing the bunker busters to Israel, President Obama reversed the decision taken by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Obama more than doubled American funding for the Israeli Missile defense system known as David’s Sling—in the last year of President Bush’s term, the U.S. committed $52 million to the program; this year, that number rose to $110 million.

And only under this president’s watch has another important air-defense system, called Iron Dome, received funding. President Obama’s $205 million commitment jump-started Iron Dome in 2011, and his Administration has promised that hundreds of millions more U.S. dollars are on their way to assist with this vital defense system. These and other Obama-backed defense measures protect Israeli citizens from the threats they face every day -– threats from Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists, and from the government or Iran itself.

Indeed, President Obama has led the way in confronting the danger posed by Iran. He has cajoled a sometimes reluctant group of nations to join him in hitting the Iranians where it hurts—in the oil spigot. In the face of withering sanctions the President championed, Iranian oil production has plummeted and their currency has so seriously deflated it is causing a crisis in the Iranian banking system.

No wonder that, only last week, the speaker of the Iranian parliament conceded for the first that the sanctions were responsible for Iran’s current economic plight.

Under President Obama’s leadership, the American and Israeli militaries are working more closely together than ever.  In 2009, they engaged in “Operation Juniper Cobra,” the largest collaborative missile defense exercise ever undertaken.  In 2010, they followed up with “Operation Juniper Stallion,” a joint exercise focused on stimulated bombing drills. Thousands of troops from both countries participated in these exercises, which forge the strategic bonds that help tie our nations together.

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I can also attest to the strong cooperation between our two countries—a key priority in stopping the leading sponsor of terrorism from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

On the world stage, too, the President has shown that these bonds are unbreakable.  At the United Nations, where Israel is frequently the brunt of unjustified attacks by tyrannical countries, President Obama has used his powerful veto on behalf the Middle East’s only democracy and has a 100% pro-Israel voting record. In 2011, when the Security Council wanted to condemn the settlements, President Obama stepped in to stop them, using his first veto to do so. He has also promised to veto any unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. And unlike his immediate predecessor, President Obama has not demanded hasty Palestinian elections -– elections that would might further empower and embolden Hamas.

If we take Governor Romney at his word—and on Israel he has no actions to guide us—should we assume then that he would do the opposite of all these pro-Israel steps taken by our President?

Last week, President Obama signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which will help Israel to maintain its military edge over other states in the region. Would a President Romney have done otherwise?

Barack Obama has never wavered in his support for Israel. He is a stalwart friend and his actions speak louder than words.


Representative Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is a senior Member of the Intelligence Committee and a member of the Democratic Israel Working Group in the House.

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