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Obama on the Defensive: I'm Not First President 'Unable' to Visit Israel 'in Their First Term


"I visited Israel twice as senator -- once right before I became president."

There was an intriguing moment during President Barack Obama's press conference today (a number of them, actually). Of particular note was a question by Fox's Ed Henry. The reporter asked the president why he hasn't visited Israel during his first term.

Obama responded by saying he isn't the first president not to visit Israel during his first term. Additionally, he reiterated his support for and devotion to the Jewish state.

"I am not the first president who has been unable, because of a whole range of issues, not to visit Israel as president in their first term," he said. "I visited Israel twice as senator -- once right before I became president."

While critics will likely go digging to disprove Obama's claims, the president is telling the truth. It isn't uncommon for individuals to say that the Obama administration hasn't been as supportive of Israel as many would like. Regardless, his predecessor -- George W. Bush -- did not visit the nation during his first term either. The Jewish Forward reports:

President George W. Bush, hailed by Israelis as a great friend of the Jewish state, visited Israel twice, but both events took place deep in his second term. Bush first visited Israel in January 2008, a year before leaving the White House and then once again in May of 2008, to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary.

His Father, President George H.W. Bush served only one term and never got around to visiting Israel. Bush’s relations with the Shamir government in Israel were strained and ended on a sour note as the Israeli government refused to freeze settlement as demanded by the Bush administration.

After explaining this, Obama went on to discuss his commitment to the Middle Eastern nation (his comments come just one day after he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pledge a "rock solid" commitment to Israel).

"The measure of my commitment to Israel is not measured by a single visit," the president proclaimed during today's press conference. "The measure of my commitment to Israel is seen in the actions I've taken as president of the United States. And it is indisputable that I've had Israel's back over the last three years."

But the president did take time to sharply criticized his opponents who have taken to tough talk about Iran.

"This is not a game and there is nothing casual about it," Obama told reporters. "When you actually ask them what they would do, it turns out they repeat the things we've been doing over the last three years. It indicates to me that that's more about politics than actually trying to solve a difficult problem."

He said that if any of the Republican candidates truly believe it is time to start a war, they should explain their positions to the American people. "Everything else is just talk," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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