In discussions held behind closed doors and debates surrounding core issues, the president demonstrated his willingness to understand the Israeli point of view.
U.S. President Barack Obama took off from Israel on Friday afternoon and left behind him a stronger Israel than before. Over the course of two and a half days, the president formed a personal bond with the citizens of Israel and spoke to their hearts. Attending public events, he met the past, present and future of the Jewish people in their homeland, while holding lengthy behind-the-scenes discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisors, tending to key issues for both nations. The most important of all, perhaps, was the message the president brought with him and left behind — a message heard not only in Israel, but also throughout the Middle East.
The visit was made during a critical time for Israel, while the region is highly turbulent. The chemical weapon threat from Syria, the thousands of rockets in the hands of terrorists in Lebanon and Gaza, and the Iranian nuclear program all provide Israel with a plethora of dangers and challenges. Meanwhile, the U.S. is tired from two drawn-out wars in the Middle East, and financial cuts will potentially affect its will and ability to continue its involvement in the region.
In the Arab world and among Iranian leaders, Holocaust denial is at its peak and with it, so is the refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel and of us as a people with the right to self-determination in our country. On top of these, the international media has created a narrative of tension and even severed ties between the Israeli and U.S. governments.
This type of portrayal encouraged all those who strive to disrupt the alliance between the two nations. Then President Obama arrived, bringing with him a clear message to all Israeli citizens and its neighbors. Upon arrival, he immediately made an honorable visit to one of the battery facilities of the “Iron Dome,” the revolutionary anti-missile system developed in Israel and largely funded by the U.S. In his meeting with the young soldiers and officers operating the system, the president expressed his commitment to continued support for Israel’s security under the missile threat.
Later, the president visited the Yad Vashem museum, condemning Holocaust deniers and emphasizing that Israel was not established in the wake of the Holocaust but as a measure to prevent its recurrence. On Mount Herzl, the president laid a bouquet of flowers on the grave of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as a message of his commitment to achieve peace; he also laid flowers on the grave of Herzl, the father of the Zionist idea, in an act of presidential validation of the Zionist idea and the rightfulness of the Jewish state.
At the Shrine of the Book, accompanied by President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he was witness to the millennia-old connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, imprinted on the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A Special Personal Connection with Netanyahu
There were additional unforgettable moments during the president’s visit. While browsing the technology exhibition, he was impressed with the Israeli innovations that are shaping the world’s future. In his speech to over 2,000 students at the International Convention Center, the president was moved by the applause he received after sharing his vision regarding Israel and the entire Middle East. At all these events, including dinner at the Peres household, Obama didn’t miss a single opportunity to describe Israel as the Jewish State and the U.S. as its eternal ally.
These displays of love and affection were not purely symbolic. In conversations held behind closed doors and during discussions of core issues, the president displayed his will to understand the Israeli point of view and expressed his support of our right to defend ourselves. Even before his visit, the president stated he spends more time on the phone and face to face with our prime minister than with any other world leader, and this is sure to be the case after the visit. The relationship between the two has always been open and friendly, but during this visit, a special personal connection was formed.
This type of closeness is reflected in the prime minister’s decision to grant Obama’s request — and not demand, as claimed by some of the media — to settle the dispute with Turkey. This brave step will improve Israel’s ability to handle threats arising from the current situation in Syria and will further strengthen the alliance with the U.S.
Tonight, we will sit with our families to celebrate Passover. The Seder table will be set and laden with meaningful symbols — symbols of slavery, of renewal and of freedom. With his visit, President Obama has praised the achievements and values of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, for being a bold symbol of true fellowship with the United States, a country that knows that there is one country in the Middle East that is strong, innovative, rooted, democratic and committed to peace. In this country, American flags are not burned but waved, and the country remains unconditionally pro-America.
The writer is the Israeli ambassador in America.