Nearly seven months after President Barack Obama scolded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his government's decision to construct 1600 new housing units in the east-Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, the image of the Israeli leader's public humiliation has caused many Israelis and American Jews to question whether the U.S. President is "fully committed to the Jewish state." Yet, while the White House standoff quickly confirmed fears harbored by some of the U.S. administration's most ardent critics, few however, seems to have noticed how Obama silently increased military assistance to Israel while repairing relations with Netanyahu. Moreover, by successfully coupling a new series of punitive sanctions against Iran with deepening bilateral defense cooperation, Obama has arguably become the "best friend" Israel could have.
What increased military assistance means for Israel
In an effort to deter terrorist organizations from barraging the Jewish state with rockets and artillery shells, the U.S. President personally pledged 205 million USD to secure for the final development of the Israeli cash strapped short-range missile defense system Iron Dome. Additionally, as recent as of September 27, Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense Udi Shani signed an agreement in Washington that would pave way for a new "Kassam shield," designed to intercept rockets, ballistic missiles and short-range missiles. The new agreement is the second of its kind, after the "David's Sling" system, designed to intercept rockets and short-range missiles such as those employed by Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon war. While the Kassam shield is scheduled to become operational by 2014, the new system is also meant to complement the Iron Dome system. Following the Israeli defense establishment's successful completion of its final testing of the Iron Dome missile system, the first two batteries will become operational by November 2010.
In other military to military assistance, the Pentagon also provided the Israeli Air Force with U.S.-made Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM bombs) in an effort to expand its weapon arsenal in preparation for a prolonged regional war while increasing U.S. emergency aid by fifty percent. On top of access to cutting edge U.S. military technology, President Obama also approved for the sale of 20 new F-35 Join-Striker Jets worth a total of 2.75 billion USD.
What about Obama's pressure on the settlement freeze?
Although skeptics have argued that Obama "wasted a year" on fruitless diplomacy following his Cairo address to the "Muslim world," yet it should nonetheless not come as a surprise that the U.S. President's failed Iran engagement instead resulted in deepening bilateral ties with Israel. Moreover, as Obama has toned down statements on controversial Israeli housing construction, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas have successfully resumed direct negotiations. Also noteworthy, while the parties seemingly haggle over whether the West Bank-wide settlement freeze will be extended or if "Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state," Haaretz editor-at-large Aluf Benn described the increased rhetoric a poker game: The first to blink would lose ground, as strong statements are known to observers as a deliberate strategy employed by the two leaders to strengthen their domestic negotiating positions.
U.S. commitment to Israel's security, as strong as ever
Lastly, whether or not the situation on the ground is ripe for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace treaty, regional support of the direct negotiations should nonetheless give hope to optimism for the Israeli public: As Washington's moderate Arab allies regard advancing the peace process as a critical vehicle to deter Teheran's regional aspirations, a possible interim accord (or "credit card agreement," as it has been called), would leave room for reaching an understanding on all the core issues at once, while practical security and economic measures will be carried out over a negotiated period of time. By strengthening military-to-military cooperation, President Obama's policies should not only be seen as a deliberate strategy to deter Iran and its regional proxies, but more broadly, as a testimony to an unwavering U.S. commitment to towards the Jewish state -- and her security.
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