Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel as US President began with a lot of thanks from Israeli leaders—expressions of gratitude that underline the important values held by Israelis: self-defense and Israel’s status as the Jewish homeland. With Iran’s nuclear program and the ongoing conflict with Syria in the background, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in comments to Obama released by his office, thanked the American leader for “unequivocally affirming Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself by itself against any threat.”
“Thank you for enhancing Israel’s’ ability to exercise that right through generous military assistance, revolutionary missile defense programs, and unprecedented security and intelligence cooperation,” Netanyahu said on Wednesday after Obama’s arrival.
The US has given Israel millions of dollars in military assistance, especially in the realm of missile defense against both short-range and long-range missile threats.
In addition to the military issues expected to dominate the meetings between Netanyahu and Obama during the latter’s visit to Israel, the Palestinian situation is also expected to be a topic of discussion.
Netanyahu has long argued that a key to any Israel-Palestinian peace deal is the need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland, and he subtly underscored that point again in his comments to Obama. The Israeli leader thanked the US President for “upholding the Jewish people’s right to a Jewish state in our historic homeland, and for boldly defending that right at the United Nations.”
Security and peace were also a theme in Israeli President Shimon Peres’ welcome to Obama, in addition to a number of “thank you” comments. According to a copy of his statement released by his office ,Peres told Obama, “You enabled our security in an extraordinary way, to project strength. To strive for peace. Strengthening security is the best way to strengthen peace.
“We long to see an end to the conflict with the Palestinians. To see the Palestinians enjoying freedom and prosperity in their own state. We extend our hand in peace to all the countries of the Middle East.”
While US-Israel relations have had some rocky points over Obama’s presidency over apparent disagreements on Iran and the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu stressed the importance of Israel’s most powerful ally in handling today’s challenges.
“In an unstable and uncertain Middle East, the need for our alliance is greater than ever,” Netanyahu told Obama. “It is the key to thwarting dangers and advancing peace; it’s the key to achieve a stable and secure peace that the people of Israel yearn for with our neighbors with our all hearts. We seek a peace with our Palestinian neighbors.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, March 20, 2013)