In the Oval Office on Friday, President Obama said: “This week we are going to be able to announce 70 million dollars in additional spending — 70 billion dollars, excuse me — in additional spending for [Israel’s] Iron Dome [missile defense shield].”
He got the number right the first time but Obama’s “correction” was perhaps of way of saying there need be no dollar limit on any military aid for Israel he is willing to support. AIPAC can draft the bills and he’ll sign them — whatever the cost.
The Wall Street Journal reports: With a stroke of a pen on Friday, President Barack Obama gave Israel a long-distance embrace ahead of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s trip to the Jewish state this weekend.
Mr. Obama held an Oval Office photo-op for his signing of legislation that enhances U.S.-Israel security cooperation, saying the move underscores “our unshakeable commitment to Israel security.”
“I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues,” Mr. Obama said. “I hope that, as I sign as this bill, once again everybody understands how committed all of us are – Republicans and Democrats – as Americans to our friends in making sure that Israel is safe and secure.”
Mr. Obama also noted the U.S.’s funding this week of an additional $70 million for Israel’s missile defense system, which the administration had announced months ago.
The moment comes amid a flurry of attention Obama administration officials have been showering on Israel ahead of Mr. Romney’s meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. Over the past two weeks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and the White House’s counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan have visited Israel.
On Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make a two-day stop in Israel to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, Egypt and Syria’s political unrest, according to officials involved in the planning. Mr. Obama said Friday that the goal of Mr. Panetta’s trip is “to further consult and find additional ways that we can ensure such cooperation at a time when, frankly, the region is experiencing heightened tensions.”
The president’s team has also been reaching out to American Jewish leaders in recent days to shore up support in advance of Mr. Romney’s trip, a White House official said.
Both Messrs. Obama and Romney are vying for Jewish voters in the November election. Mr. Romney accused Mr. Obama of straining U.S.-Israel relations, and Republicans have criticized the president for not visiting Israel during his first term.
Ynet reports: “This was a historical landmark in the defense relations between the US and Israel,” said Amos Gilad, the director of policy and political-military affairs at the Defense Ministry.
The legislation, knowns as the “United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012,” allows Israel to purchase American KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft for the first time. Thus far, the Bush and Obama administrations refused to sell planes of this kind to the Jewish state, primarily in order to bar it from launching a massive aerial strike on Iran.
In all likelihood, such a military operation would involve F-15I and F-16I fighter jets, as well as helicopters, all of which will have to refuel on their way to the Islamic Republic, and on the return trip. Mid-air refueling capabilities are therefore essential for the mission.
So far, Israel has had to buy used commercial Boeing 707 airliners and convert them into tanker jets, a far from ideal solution considering the planes were originally designed for passenger flights. Just last week an accident occurred during an exercise involving such aircraft.