Obama boasts of strong support for Israel

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 20, 2011.
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

President Obama on Wednesday evening defended his record on Israel, claiming that "this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration."

The president was speaking at a small campaign fundraiser at the New York Mansion of Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress. The president has sought to prove his commitment to Israel this year as Republicans -- and Jewish voters -- have expressed skepticism.

"Whether it's making sure that our intelligence cooperation is effective, to making sure that we're able to construct something like an Iron Dome so that we don't have missiles raining down on Tel Aviv, we have been consistent in insisting that we don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security," Mr. Obama said at the fundraiser. "And that's not just something I say privately, that's something that I said in the U.N. General Assembly. And that will continue."

The president noted that the political upheaval in the Middle East could create some challenges for Israel's security, particularly in Egypt. He said the U.S. and its allies should make sure the changes in the region "do not end up manifesting themselves in anti-Western or anti-Israel policies."

Mr. Obama demonstrated his commitment to Israel in September, when he went before the United Nations General Assembly in opposition to Palestine's U.N. bid for statehood. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effusively praised the president for taking that position.

Still, the president's opponents have seized every opportunity to call into question the Obama administration's relationship with Israel. After Mr. Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were caught speaking negatively about Netanyahu, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney called Mr. Obama's attitude toward Israel "disdainful." Earlier in the year, Romney accused Mr. Obama of having "thrown Israel under the bus."

In September, a survey of American Jewish adults, conducted by the American Jewish Committee, found that support for the president has dropped in the past year, in part because most disapprove of the way Mr. Obama is handling relations with Israel.

Mr. Obama's relationship with Israel also became an issue in a New York special congressional election over the fall, when former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, a Democrat, endorsed the Republican in the race. Koch cited his opposition to Mr. Obama's policies in Israel as the reason for his decision. However, Koch later endorsed Mr. Obama's re-election bid, saying the president's remarks at the U.N. on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reassured him about the president's policies.

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