Obama, U.S. security chief reassert closeness of Israel ties

President Obama and his national security adviser reasserted that the alliance with Israel is in the United States’ interest.

“Let me be very clear: We have a special relationship with Israel and that will not change,” Obama said in a letter this week to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “Our countries are bound together by shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests. Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests.”

Speaking separately on Wednesday to the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, James Jones, the national security adviser, outlined benefits the United States derives from its relationship with Israel.

“The United States will never waiver in defense of Israel’s security,” Jones said. “That is why we provide billions of dollars annually in security assistance to Israel, why we have reinvigorated our consultations to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, and why we undertake joint military exercises, such as the Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defense exercise that involved more than 1,000 United States servicemen and women.

“We view these efforts as essential elements of our regional security approach, because many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States. I can also say from long experience that our security relationship with Israel is important for America. Our military benefits from Israeli innovations in technology, from shared intelligence, from exercises that help our readiness and joint training that enhances our capabilities and from lessons learned in Israel’s own battles against terrorism and asymmetric threats.”

Administration officials have tried in recent weeks to roll back perceptions of a crisis in the relationship with Israel since tensions arose after Israel announced a major eastern Jerusalem building project during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden.

Jones and Obama both spoke of “distortions” of administration policies. Each said that Israeli-Arab peace cannot be “imposed,” as opposed to reports recently that Obama would unilaterally announce a peace plan.

The Presidents Conference, the umbrella foreign policy body for Jewish groups, alerted its membership that it would convene a discussion on the letter next week.

Jones also said the Obama administration “is determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” He said the effort to contain Iran would be facilitated by progress in Israeli-Arab peace.

“One of the ways that Iran exerts influence in the Middle East is by exploiting the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict,” he said. “Iran uses the conflict to keep others in the region on the defensive and to try to limit its own isolation. Ending this conflict, achieving peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state would therefore take such an evocative issue away from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.”