Obama Responds to
Republican Criticisms on Support for Israel
December 17, 2011
In an address Friday to the largest North American Jewish organization,
President Barack Obama said the United States is fully committed to
Israel, and responded to recent sharp criticisms on the subject from
Republican presidential candidates.
Mr. Obama traveled a short distance to a hotel just outside of
Washington and the 71st General Assembly of the Union of Reform Judaism
to deliver a message he has repeated frequently, that the U.S commitment
to Israel's security is "unshakeable."
Formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the group calls
itself the largest Jewish movement in North America, representing more
than 900 congregations in the U.S, Canada and Caribbean and 1.5 million
Republican presidential candidates have criticized Mr. Obama's
commitment to Israel and his broader approach to the Middle East, and
strategy on Iran's nuclear program.
Mr. Obama and administration officials strongly reject this, and point
to ongoing strong military-to-military and intelligence cooperation,
including assistance for the Israeli "Iron Dome" missile system to guard
against rocket attacks.
Mr. Obama listed these and other areas of cooperation and hit back at
criticisms, saying special bonds between the U.S. and Israel should
transcend partisan politics.
"It is hard to remember a time when the U.S. has given stronger support
to Israel on its security," said President Obama. "In fact I am proud to
say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel's
security than ours. None. Don't let anybody else tell you otherwise. It
is a fact."
Mr. Obama's relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
has been tense and chilly at times, as the administration attempted to
persuade Israel's government to freeze settlement activity in the
occupied West Bank.
That has been a major roadblock among those preventing a return to
direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians which occurred only
briefly after Mr. Obama brought Israeli and other Mideast leaders to the
White House in 2010.
Mr. Obama said the only path to a just and lasting peace is through
direct negotiations in pursuit of the vision of a two state solution,
saying he will "not waiver" in pursuit of that vision.
He reiterated U.S. policy on Iran's nuclear program, which he called a
threat to the security of Israel, the United States and the world.
"We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and
that is why we have worked painstakingly from the moment I took office
with allies and partners and we have imposed the most comprehensive, the
hardest hitting sanctions that the Iranian regime has ever faced," said
Obama. "We haven't just talked about it, we have done it. And we are
going to keep up the pressure. And that is why rest assured we will take
no options off the table."
White House confirmed that Mr. Obama met briefly before his speech with
Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who also addressed the conference.
Mr. Obama's address, in which he also reviewed major accomplishments of
his presidency such as health care reform and ending the U.S. combat
role in Iraq - came as he tries to prevent further erosion of support
among American Jewish voters for his re-election in 2012.
Much of the speech reprised major points he has made in his struggles
with opposition Republicans in Congress over jobs legislation and tax
cuts to help the middle class.
Mr. Obama said the political debate in the U.S. is not just political,
but a moral, ethical and values debate about whether all Americans "get
a fair shake" and "play by the same rules."