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May 1, 2012

President Obama and Israel: April 2012

Listed in: Israel, Fact Sheets, NJDC News

“The U.S. Government has done more to ensure Israel’s security under the President’s leadership than under any previous Administration. From providing record-level security assistance that is saving lives, to leading vigorous diplomacy that is defending Israel at the UN, to championing sanctions against Iran, our record is rock-solid. Based on my own firsthand experience working these issues day in and day out, I can assure you that Israel’s security is at the top of the agenda of President Obama’s national security team. And as for the President himself, he said he has Israel’s back—and he meant it. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m very proud to serve in this Administration.” - National Security Advisor Steve Simon, April 30, 2012

Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa Steve Simon addressed the Anti-Defamation League’s annual conference in Washington, DC. During his remarks, Simon explained just some of the actions taken by the Obama Administration to support Israel and prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Highlights of Simon’s remarks appear below. Click here to download this information as a pdf.

Simon said on the state of the current state of the U.S.-Israel relationship:

“For more than 60 years since Israel’s founding, during periods of war and peace, and common crisis, U.S. administrations of all stripes have worked to safeguard Israel’s security—Republican and Democrat. But I would maintain that no administration and no President has done as much as President Obama has done to promote Israel’s security. And I say this having served in every Administration but one since Ronald Reagan was in office… Thus, Prime Minister Netanyahu has rightly said that our security cooperation with Israel is ‘unprecedented’ ... and if you have relatives or friends in southern Israel they can tell you what this has meant in practical terms in recent months….

“In a period of sweeping regional change that brings new opportunities but also new challenges and uncertainties, the United States will continue to bear Israel’s security in mind as we develop and implement our foreign policy.”

He noted that in addition to the Obama Administration $3.1 billion aid request for Israel the largest ever—the Obama Administration has:

* Provided substantial funding—and intends to seek more—for the Iron Dome missile defense system that has protected southern Israel from nearly 80% of the rockets fired into the country.

* Cooperated with Israel in developing the Arrow and David’s Sling missile defense systems that are designed to stop medium and short-range missiles, respectively.

* Laid the framework for linking Israel into a U.S. satellite system that can provide early warning about incoming missiles.

* Committed thousands of U.S. troops to operation Austere Challenge—the largest U.S.-Israel joint military exercise ever.

* Participated in over 200 high-level exchanges between senior American and Israeli officials in 2011.

Simon explained many of the diplomatic steps taken by the Obama Administration to support Israel:

* Working against the Palestinians’ attempt to unilaterally declare a state.

* Fiercely combating the campaign to delegitimize Israel.

* Standing up for Israel’s right to self-defense—including as the only country to back Israel following the flotilla incident.

* “Always” rejecting efforts to equate Zionism with racism.

* Working to preserve Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt.

Simon reiterated that the Obama Administration is committed to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran:

“We know that Israel sees the threat posed by Iran as existential. And make no mistake, an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would pose a direct and serious threat to the security of the United States as well. This is about both allies—Israel and the United States ... And that’s why our policy is not to contain Iran, but to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon....

“We believe now is the time to speak softly and carry a big stick, to let our increased pressure sink in, to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built and to engage Iran in good faith as the window for diplomacy shrinks—and it is shrinking….

“We have backed up that commitment by building an unprecedented coalition to impose the most far-reaching sanctions that Iran has ever faced. As a result, Iran finds itself increasingly isolated from the international community….

“Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States or about Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself. As the President has said, ‘we take no options off the table.’”

He specifically noted that Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to Iran’s parliament, “the West has imposed the most extensive and dastardly sanctions ever. ... This is the heaviest economic onslaught on a nation in history.”

Some of the reasons include:

* Iran is having serious difficulties conducting international transactions.

* Iran cannot access 70% of its foreign currency reserves.

* $60 billion worth of foreign projects in Iran have been cancelled or suspended.

* Companies like Shell, Total, ENI, Statoil, Repsol, Toyota, Siemens, and Lukoil have all pulled out of Iran—as well as foreign subsidiaries of American companies such as GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar.

Simon also spoke about the Obama Administration’s efforts regarding the pursuit of peace:

“Israel’s own leaders understand the imperative of peace. And they speak about it. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, and President Peres have each called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state. ... Both Israel and the Palestinians continue to believe that our involvement is important to making progress. Both Israel and the Palestinians want the United States to persevere. So as President Obama said recently ... ‘we will make no apologies for continuing to pursue peace.’ And that is why from the President down, we remain deeply engaged with Israel and the Palestinians to continue to work toward a resumption of direct negotiations….

“President Obama has also made clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met. Period.”

Simon made clear that the United States’ policy of blacklisting Hamas as a terrorist organization “has not changed.”