Obama Calls U.S. Commitment to Israel ‘Solemn Obligation’
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 20, 2013 President Barack Obama today pledged in Jerusalem that the United States stands by its commitment to Israel’s security, noting the alliance between the two countries “has never been stronger.”
During a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, Obama said he’s “made it clear America’s commitment to the security of the State of Israel is a solemn obligation, and the security of Israel is non-negotiable.”
Today, the American and Israeli militaries and their intelligence establishments “cooperate more closely than ever before,” Obama said.
The U.S. and Israeli militaries also “conduct more joint exercises and training than ever before,” the president added.
Additionally, the United States is “providing more security assistance and advanced technology to Israel than ever before,” Obama said.
The U.S. military is providing support for Israeli missile defenses like the Iron Dome, Obama said. Earlier today, the president said, he’d visited the Iron Dome system, “which has saved so many Israeli lives.”
The Iron Dome, a short-range rocket and mortar defense system which was developed by the Israelis and funded in large part by the United States, prevented war following hundreds of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip in March 2012.
America’s support for Israel’s security is “unprecedented,” Obama said, noting “the alliance between our nations has never been stronger.”
During meetings he’d had earlier in the day with Netanyahu and other senior Israeli government officials, Obama said he’d agreed to begin discussions on extending U.S. military assistance to Israel.
“Our current agreement lasts through 2017,” Obama said, “and we’ve directed our teams to start working on extending it for the years beyond.”
Obama also announced the U.S. will take steps to ensure that there’s no interruption of funding for the Iron Dome system.
“As a result of decisions that I made last year, Israel will receive approximately $200 million this fiscal year and we will continue to work with Congress on future funding of Iron Dome,” the president said. “These are further reminders that we will help to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
And, the United States “continues to work with allies and friends and the Syrian opposition to hasten the end” of the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Obama said.
“We also share Israel’s grave concern about the transfer of chemical or other weapon systems to terrorists -- such as Hezbollah -- that might be used against Israel,” Obama said. “The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists.”
Obama said he and senior Israeli officials also discussed the topic of Iran.
“We agree that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to the region, a threat to the world, and potentially an existential threat to Israel,” Obama said. “And we agree on our goal. We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“We prefer to resolve this diplomatically, and there’s still time to do so,” the president continued. “Iran’s leaders must understand, however, that they have to meet their international obligations. And, meanwhile, the international community will continue to increase the pressure on the Iranian government.”
Meanwhile, “the United States will continue to consult closely with Israel on next steps,” Obama said. “And I will repeat: All options are on the table. We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world’s worst weapons.”
Meeting today’s challenges in the Middle East won’t be easy, Obama observed to Netanyahu, noting that “it will demand the same courage and resolve as those who have preceded us.”
Obama also observed that Netanyahu and his family, like other families across Israel, have “served and sacrificed to defend your country and to pass it, safe and strong, to your children just as it was passed on to you.
“Standing here today,” the president added, “I can say with confidence that Israel’s security is guaranteed because it has a great deal on its side, including the unwavering support of the United States of America.”
Besides Israel, Obama will also visit the West Bank and Jordan on the first foreign trip of his second term of office.