President Obama: Advancing Israel's Security and Supporting Peace
“Our commitment to the security of Israel is rock solid. And as I've said to the Prime Minister in every single one of our meetings, the United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security. This is a bond that is based not only on our mutual security interests and economic interests, but is also based on common values and the incredible people-to-people contacts that we have between our two countries.”
President Barack Obama
March 5, 2012
The President has strengthened Israel’s security in tangible and concrete ways.
On July 27, 2012 the President signed the “United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012”, which strengthens Israel’s qualitative military edge. The bill expressed bipartisan Congressional support for Administration initiatives that deepen U.S. defense and security cooperation with Israel, to include providing Israel with financial and technological assistance to produce defensive systems to counter the threat of rockets and missiles; access to U.S. manufactured defense equipment and excess defense articles; and increased opportunities to train with U.S. military forces.
Despite tough fiscal times, the President fought for and secured full funding for Israel in FY 2012, including $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing – the largest amount of funding for Israel in U.S. history.
The President secured an additional $205 million in FY 2011 to help produce an Israeli-developed short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome, which has helped defend Israeli communities against rocket attacks by successfully striking rockets as they are fired at Israeli civilians.
In July 2012, President Obama provided an additional $70 million to Israel to ensure that Israel could maximize its production of the Iron Dome system for 2012. Over the next three years, the Administration intends to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat.
Israeli forces now benefit from regular joint exercises and training opportunities, access to advanced U.S. military hardware, emergency stockpiles, and favorable terms for the acquisition of equipment.
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the AIPAC conference on May 23, 2012, that “Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel's security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented… And he has backed those words with deeds.”
In a July 25, 2012, speech to the Israeli National Security College, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “The security ties between us and the current administration are at the highest level they have ever been. The administration is consistently strengthening the depths of Israel’s security abilities. The decision to expand the Iron Dome system with U.S. financial backing is yet another expression of this deep connection and commitment.”
The President has galvanized the international community to put more pressure on the Iranian regime than ever before.
President Obama has been clear that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He has backed up this commitment with tangible steps to increase pressure substantially on the Iranian regime and raise the costs of its defiance of the international community.
With President Obama’s leadership, the United States gained the support of Russia, China, and other nations to pass United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, creating the most comprehensive and biting international sanctions regime the Iranian government has ever faced. This resolution imposes restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, ballistic missile program, conventional military exports to Iran, Iranian banks and financial transactions, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Obama Administration also worked with allies such as the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, and others to adopt additional national measures to increase pressure on the Iranian regime, including in the financial, banking, insurance, transportation, and energy sectors. Iran is now virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system and we are working aggressively to isolate Iran even further.
In addition to multilateral sanctions, President Obama worked with Congress to pass in 2010 the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which strengthens existing U.S. sanctions, and makes it harder for the Iranian government to buy refined petroleum and the goods it needs to modernize its oil and gas sector. Already, close to $60 billion in energy-related projects in Iran have been put on hold or discontinued.
More recently, the Administration worked with Congress to develop Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which makes sanctionable a host of transactions involving the Central Bank of Iran.
The United States has worked closely with partners during the first half of 2012 to secure their cooperation with these sanctions, resulting in the significant reduction of purchases of oil from all of Iran’s major oil trading partners. For instance, the European Union has put in place a full embargo on Iranian oil. The impact on Iran has been severe, with perhaps as much as 1 million barrels per day in sales revenue taken away from Iran, at the cost of billions per month.
International companies are increasingly recognizing the risks of doing business with Iran and are abandoning existing business opportunities, declining to take advantage of new ones, and scaling back any existing relationships. This trend has been replicated across a broad range of industries. Examples of companies withdrawing from business with Iran include: Shell, Total, ENI, Statoil, Repsol, Lukoil, Kia, Toyota, Siemens, and foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms such as GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar.
The Obama Administration is working to develop more sanctions to further isolate and increase the pressure on the Iranian regime. The President signed two new Executive Orders in April 2012 that addressed human rights violations and sanctions evasion, and we continue to look for new ways to expand our authorities and strengthen our implementation of existing ones to ensure that Iran understands that its failure to comply with its international obligations will have ever intensifying consequences.
The President has stood with Israel in times of crisis.
The President personally intervened to help avert catastrophe when a violent mob stormed the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. Afterwards, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said of the President: “I requested his assistance at a decisive—I would even say fateful—moment. He said he would do everything possible, and this is what he did. He activated all of the United States’ means and influence — which are certainly considerable. I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude.”
The President has made clear that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Hamas, a terrorist group sworn to its destruction.
In his speech in Cairo and elsewhere, the President has consistently demanded that Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements before it can play a role in achieving Middle East peace.
The President has spoken out forcefully to condemn Hamas attacks against Israelis. He has made clear that “it is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.” At the United Nations, he emphasized that “the slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance – it’s injustice.”
The President has forcefully opposed unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system.
The President has consistently opposed attempts to shortcut the peace process through resolutions at the United Nations. When an effort was made to insert the Security Council into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. In his September 21, 2011 address to the United Nations General Assembly, the President said “I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades. Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations -- if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians -- not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.”
When the UN General Assembly voted for a commemoration in September 2011 of the original 2001 Durban conference, we voted against it and announced we would not participate. When the Goldstone Report was released, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself.
The President has called on all sides – Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis alike – to do their part to help achieve Middle East peace.
In Cairo, the President said that Arab states must recognize that they too have responsibilities to move towards peace, including by fostering a culture of peace. He said clearly that “threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong,” and that denying the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”
In his May 19, 2011 speech, President Obama emphasized that a peace agreement must meet the needs of both sides, including by: ending the conflict and resolving all claims, achieving the goal of two states for two peoples with Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people, achieving secure and recognized borders for both sides, and devising robust security arrangements that will not leave Israel vulnerable.