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Obama Upstages Romney, Strengthens Security Ties with Israel

On the eve of Mitt Romney's visit to Israel, President Barack Obama signs bill to strengthen U.S.-Israeli military ties.
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 7/27/2012, 8:54 PM

Obama signs the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act in the Oval Office
Obama signs the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act in the Oval Office
Reuters

President Barack Obama signed a bill on Friday to strengthen U.S.-Israeli military ties, Reuters reported.

Obama used a White House ceremony to announce the United States would soon provide Israel with an additional $70 million in funding for the Iron Dome short-range rocket shield.

As Obama signed the bill at his desk in the Oval Office, he said it underscored his administration's "unshakeable commitment" to Israel's security. Congress passed the legislation last week with broad support from Republicans and Obama's Democrats.

“I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across a whole spectrum of security issues,” Obama was quoted as having said in the Oval Office.

The new bill calls for enhanced cooperation with Israel on missile defense and intelligence, and increased access to advanced weapons.

It is believed that Obama’s focus on strengthening cooperation with Israel was timed to try to upstage his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, who has accused the president of undermining Washington's relationship with its number one partner in the Middle East. Romney will travel to Israel on Saturday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.

Obama, criticized by some of Israel's U.S. supporters for being too tough on a close ally, wants to shore up his support among Jewish voters, who could prove critical in battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania in the November 6 election.

Obama received 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2008 election, but a nationwide Gallup poll in June showed him down to 64 percent backing versus Romney's 29 percent.

He angered many Israelis and their U.S. supporters last year when he insisted any negotiations on the borders of a future Palestinian state begin on the basis of lines that existed before 1967, when Israel liberated Judea and Samaria during the Six Day War.

Obama visited Israel as a candidate in the 2008 campaign but has not done so as president. Colin Kahl, an Obama aide, said this week Americans can “expect” Obama to visit Israel during his second term.

Romney, meanwhile, criticized Obama’s attitude towards Israel on Friday, telling the Yisrael Hayom newspaper that Israel deserves better treatment than it has received from Obama.

Romney told the daily paper that he, unlike Obama, would not make disputes with Israel’s leaders a public affair. “I cannot imagine going to the United Nations, as Obama did, and criticizing Israel in front of the world,” he said. “You don’t criticize your allies in public to achieve the applause of your foes.”

If he were to disagree with Israel, differences would be discussed “in private conversations, not public forums,” he added.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)