Ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress on Tuesday, the White House is trying to emphasize its commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship, even while objecting to the speech and avoiding interaction with the leader.
In a White House blog post Sunday, White House national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan put out "five key facts" about the U.S. relationship with Israel under President Barack Obama, including that Obama has been a strong ally on security and economic fronts, citing the Iron Dome missile defense, free trade and standing with Israel at the United Nations.
“Under President Obama’s leadership, American engagement with Israel has grown and strengthened to an unprecedented degree,” Meehan wrote. “From meeting frequently with Israeli leaders to ensuring that Israel remains the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance, the president is deeply committed to helping Israel maintain its strength and security.”
Since 2009, the U.S. has provided $20.5 billion for military assistance to Israel, Meehan said, and another $2.9 billion for missile defense, which included $1.3 billion for the Iron Dome system.
The United States opposed 18 anti-Israel resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly, and on five votes before U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.S. was the only no vote on resolutions critical of Israel, Meehan added.
“The U.S. worked with Israel and the European Union to organize the first U.N. General Assembly session on anti-Semitism in U.N. history, held in January 2015,” she continued.
Obama will not be meeting with Netanyahu while he is in Washington, citing the close proximity to the March 17 Israeli election. Meanwhile, many Democrats are boycotting Netanyahu’s speech.
The relationship has been frosty regarding disagreements about Iran nuclear negations and other matters, but Meehan stressed the bond between the nations hasn’t changed.
“Since Israel’s founding, the U.S. has provided Israel with more than $120 billion in bilateral assistance and, under President Obama’s leadership, the U.S. will continue to be Israel’s strongest ally and staunchest supporter in its pursuit of peace and security in the Middle East,” she wrote.
She cited the peace negotiations going on between Israel and the Palestinians under Secretary of State John Kerry.
“President Obama has repeatedly stood up for a two-state solution that ensures the peace and security of Israelis and Palestinians,” Meehan wrote.
On the economic front, the White House spokeswoman added that 2015 marks the 30th anniversary of the United States-Israel Free Trade Agreement, the first free trade agreement entered into by the United States. U.S. exports to Israel were at $15.1 billion in 2014, up 9.6 percent from 2013, according to the blog post, while imports from Israel were $23.1 billion in 2014, up just 1.1 percent from the year before.