AJC: President Obama's Jerusalem Visit Reaffirms Vitality of U.S.-Israel Ties

Mar 20, 2013, 17:18 ET from American Jewish Committee

NEW YORK, March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC praised President Obama's visit to Israel as a demonstrable reaffirmation of the vitality of U.S.-Israel relations.

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"The warmth projected by both President Obama and Prime Minster Netanyahu is a telling reminder of the uniquely close, indeed ironclad, relationship between the U.S. and Israel," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "That is why President Obama's visit is so critically important, as he engages the Israeli people and tells Israel's neighbors -- indeed the world -- that the U.S. stands firmly with Israel.

As President Obama declared today, "The State of Israel will have no greater friend than the United States."

Obama's first visit to Israel as U.S. president is, as both leaders pointed out, their tenth meeting since the beginning of Obama's first term. In fact, Obama noted that he has spent more time with Netanyahu than any other world leader. The two discussed today, among other issues, the Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the Syrian conflict.

"Israel's security needs are truly unique," said Obama. "The U.S. commitment to Israel's security is a solemn obligation." The president reviewed the record of U.S. support for Israel's security and military needs, and declared that the "alliance between our nations has never been stronger."

On Iran's efforts to achieve nuclear weapons capability, "our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon," Obama declared. "All options are on the table. We will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from getting the world's worst weapons."

Netanyahu, emphasizing that the U.S. and Israel are aligned regarding Iran, said, "I am absolutely convinced the president of the United States is committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons."

At the same time, Netanyahu also declared that Israel has "the right and the capability to defend ourselves." The U.S. president concurred. He said the U.S. will continue to assure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge "so Israel can defend itself by itself." He spoke specifically of his Administration's efforts, working with the U.S. Congress, to extend the current program of American military assistance beyond 2017, and to also assure future funding for the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

While Obama deferred discussing any details of the peace process until after he meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah tomorrow, the U.S. president stressed that "a central element of a lasting peace must be a strong and secure Jewish state, where Israel's security concerns are met, alongside a sovereign and independent Palestinian state."

Netanyahu, emphasizing his own commitment to a negotiated, permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians, said: "Israel remains fully committed to peace and the solution of two states for two peoples. We extend our hands in peace and in friendship to the Palestinian people."

"Let us sit down at the negotiating table. Let us put aside all preconditions. Let us work together to achieve the historic compromise that will end our conflict once and for all," Netanyahu added.

Harris, who attended a meeting with Obama at the White House before the president's current trip, said: "The shared values and shared interests of America and Israel undergird the unshakable bond between the two countries, not to mention the common vision of threats to regional and global peace and security."

SOURCE American Jewish Committee