Kerry’s Support of Israel Is Unquestionable


Kerry and Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman.

— by Steve Sheffey

Last Sunday, The Daily Beast reported that it obtained a tape (which it has not released) of Secretary of State John Kerry at a private meeting with unidentified “world leaders,” in which he said that if a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not reached soon, Israel will risk becoming “an apartheid state”:

A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens — or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state.

If this sounds familiar to you, you are right. In 2010, then-Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak said that if Israel does not achieve a peace deal with the Palestinians, Israel will become either a binational state or an apartheid state.

More after the jump.
Barak said that “The simple truth is, if there is one state” including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, “it will have to be either binational or undemocratic… if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Barak is the most decorated soldier in Israel’s history. Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert are among the other Israeli leaders who have used the term “apartheid” similarly.

After Ehud Barak made his remarks in 2010, did the Zionist Organization of America and the Emergency Committee for Israel call on him to resign? Did Protect Our Heritage PAC urge its members to flood the Israeli embassy with protest calls? Did other organizations send stand-alone emails condemning his remarks?

None of that happened. But it did happen the day after Kerry’s remarks were reported, before he even had a chance to respond.

Kerry did not say Israel was an apartheid state. He said that if it does not reach a two-state solution, an apartheid state is one possible outcome.

One South African judge, Richard Goldstone, eloquently explained in The New York Times in 2011 why it is so wrong and inappropriate to call Israel and apartheid state:

In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts… committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”

Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

Barak, Olmert, Livni, and Kerry were wrong to use the term not because they said Israel was an apartheid state — it is clearly not and they clearly did not — but because the term is so charged, loaded, and capable of misinterpretation. Using that term was a mistake.

But the over-reaction was also a mistake. If Kerry had really said Israel was an apartheid state, then the reaction would have been appropriate. But he did not, and it is clear even from the Daily Beast report what he meant.

The correct response, from a pro-Israel advocacy standpoint, would have been to tone down the response, lay off the panic button, and remember that Kerry has been a strong friend of Israel throughout his decades-long career. We have enough real enemies without creating for ourselves imagined ones.

Unfortunately, some of our right-wing friends just could not resist this “gotcha” moment. This forced centrist and even center-left organizations to join in, lest they be accused by the right or by certain of their donors of being soft on the apartheid accusation.

The result is that we have got the world entertaining the absurd notion that the U.S. Secretary of State might think that Israel is an apartheid state. Even the best public relations firm could not have given the Palestinians a better earned media bonanza. Nice job, guys.

Below is the full text of the strong statement Kerry released on Monday:

For more than thirty years in the United States Senate, I didn’t just speak words in support of Israel, I walked the walk when it came time to vote and when it came time to fight. As Secretary of State, I have spent countless hours working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Justice Minister Livni because I believe in the kind of future that Israel not only wants, but Israel deserves. I want to see a two state solution that results in a secure Jewish state and a prosperous Palestinian state, and I’ve actually worked for it.

I will not allow my commitment to Israel to be questioned by anyone, particularly for partisan, political purposes, so I want to be crystal clear about what I believe and what I don’t believe.

First, Israel is a vibrant democracy and I do not believe, nor have I ever stated, publicly or privately, that Israel is an apartheid state or that it intends to become one.  Anyone who knows anything about me knows that without a shred of doubt.

Second, I have been around long enough to also know the power of words to create a misimpression, even when unintentional, and if I could rewind the tape, I would have chosen a different word to describe my firm belief that the only way in the long term to have a Jewish state and two nations and two peoples living side by side in peace and security is through a two state solution. In the long term, a unitary, binational state cannot be the democratic Jewish state that Israel deserves or the prosperous state with full rights that the Palestinian people deserve. That’s what I said, and it’s also what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. While Justice Minister Livni, former Prime Ministers Barak and Ohlmert have all invoked the specter of apartheid to underscore the dangers of a unitary state for the future, it is a word best left out of the debate here at home.

At least some organizations might have acted differently if they had just waited 24 hours.

The Anti-Defamation League welcomed Kerry’s statement:

While we may disagree from time to time, we have never doubted Secretary Kerry’s commitment to Israel’s security and his good faith efforts to find a fair, equitable and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a true friend of Israel. His statement makes that clear, and we consider this chapter closed.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, said that Israel deeply appreciates Kerry’s efforts to advance peace with the Palestinians, that Kerry did not threaten Israel, and that “his decades of support for Israel reflect an abiding commitment to Israel’s security and its future.”

Bloomberg’s Jeff Goldberg, who acknowledged that he too has used the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s possible future as well as today’s realities, explained why he no longer uses that term:

The problem is not inside Israel; the problem is on the West Bank. The settlers who entangle Israel in the lives of Palestinians believe that they are the vanguard of Zionism. In fact, they are the vanguard of binationalism. Their myopia will lead to the end of Israel as a democracy and as a haven for the Jewish people. The regime they help impose on Palestinians is cruel, unfair and unnecessary. Rather than label this regime in an incendiary fashion, I now prefer simply to describe its disagreeable qualities.

But if Kerry, following Barak’s lead, wants to warn about a possible apartheid future for Israel, I’m not going to condemn him as anti-Israel. Israeli leaders must open their minds to the possibility that he has their long-term interests at heart.

In the New Yorker, John Cassidy explained what we can learn from this episode:

As the prospects for a permanent peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians deteriorates, the standard of the debate in this country’s capital is deteriorating with it. Rather than supporting efforts to find peace, as they did in the not-so-distant past, Republicans are increasingly using Israel as a wedge issue to divide Democrats, raise money, and mobilize their own supporters…

That’s just politics, you (or Macbeth) might say — “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” To some extent, I would agree. But if there’s ever going to be an end to this wretched problem, somebody — and it’s almost certainly going to have be an American President or Secretary of State — is going to have to rise above politics and bring the two sides together. What just happened to John Kerry demonstrated why that’s getting even harder to do.

The goal of pro-Israel advocacy is to bring the U.S. and Israel closer, not to create divisions for partisan gain. That is why so many pro-Israel members of Congress from both parties wisely refrained from public comment. Following Kerry’s statement and the statement of support for Kerry from Israel, there is really not much more that can or should be said.

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Is Eating Crow Kosher? Hagel’s Critics Should Apologize

Hagel Meets then-Defense Minister Barak. Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo courtesy of the Defense Department

— by Marc R. Stanley (courtesy of the The Jerusalem Post)

Now that Chuck Hagel has completed his first trip to Israel as US defense secretary, it’s time for the pro-Israel community to acknowledge the obvious: Secretary Hagel has demonstrated that he is following the president’s lead when it comes to supporting Israel. Like his predecessors, Hagel has personally committed himself to strengthening the US-Israel defense relationship and working to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

In Israel, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and many others enthusiastically welcomed Secretary Hagel for a series of top-level meetings. The secretary’s trip was an unqualified success for the Obama administration.

More after the jump.
Netanyahu expressed his confidence in Secretary Hagel by declaring, “In the past four years, we’ve greatly enhanced the defense and security relationship between Israel and the United States, and I am absolutely confident that we will continue to further strengthen this under your stewardship of the American defense establishment.” Politico quoted a senior defense official traveling with the delegation as saying, “In Hagel’s meetings with Israeli leaders — including Prime Minister Netanyahu — they repeatedly offered strong praise for President Obama. They believe he is strongly committed to Israel’s security and clearly understands how Israel views the security challenges in the Middle East.”

Ya’alon also expressed his support for Secretary Hagel by saying, “I want, Chuck, to express my personal appreciation for your friendship and for your solid and powerful support for our country. Toda raba.”

The Israelis have good reason to be so welcoming to Secretary Hagel. He has proved himself firmly committed to America’s “iron-clad pledge… to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge [QME].” Under his watch, Israel will be a party to an unprecedented regional arms deal that will see the Jewish state receive advanced V-22 Ospreys, KC-135 refueling tankers, anti-radar missiles and advanced radar systems — some of which were denied for Israel by the Bush administration.

The new deal will simultaneously boost Israel’s QME and send a firm warning to Iran that force is a real option to stop its nuclear program. Secretary Hagel has also sought nearly $400 million in funding for the Iron Dome antimissile system, to be delivered in the coming years.

It’s no coincidence Secretary Hagel’s first meeting with a foreign leader was with then-defense minister Ehud Barak — a former prime minister and Israel’s most decorated soldier. Before their meeting, Barak declared at the 2013 American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference, “As secretary of defense [Hagel] will no doubt serve his country with the same pride and honor with which he served both on the battlefield and in Congress.”

Admittedly, the National Jewish Democratic Council was sometimes critical of Hagel when he served in the Senate. In retrospect, certain aspects of the NJDC’s criticism may have gone too far. But our prior criticisms were negligible compared to the disgraceful treatment he received during the confirmation process: Hagel was wrongfully slandered as anti-Semitic, libeled as a so-called “Friend of Hamas,” and treated with complete disrespect by certain Republicans who seemed more interested in future primary challenges and the politics of personal destruction than the confirmation process.

Hagel’s tenure to this point has done more than enough to rebut these malicious and false charges leveled by his fellow Republicans.

Given this turn of events, it’s time for his harshest critics to start making amends and admit that they were wrong.

A number of Congressional Republicans have started that process. House Armed Services Committee chair Buck McKeon (R-California) — an initial critic — now gives Secretary Hagel an A rating on his performance. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) — who skewered him during the confirmation process — told The Hill that the two now have a “professional relationship” and that “it is my job to work with him.”

Obviously Senator McCain has not offered a ringing endorsement and is unlikely to do so, but there are many who would be well served by following his lead.

If Secretary Hagel’s critics on Capitol Hill can begin to warm to him, then his most ardent critics in the pro-Israel community should as well. They co-opted the pro-Israel community’s agenda and used Secretary Hagel as a proxy for attacking President Obama. In the process, they spread baseless lies and undermined bipartisan support for the US-Israel relationship. It’s time for them to undo the damaged they caused and apologize for their shameful behavior.

The writer is the chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Hagel Expresses Commitment to Israel’s Security to Minister Barak

Photos by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo courtesy of the Defense Department

— by George Little, Pentagon Press Secretary

Secretary Hagel hosted Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak yesterday at the Pentagon for his first meeting with a foreign counterpart since taking office as secretary of defense. Secretary Hagel expressed his strong commitment to Israel’s security, including maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge and continued U.S. support for missile and rocket defense systems in spite of fiscal constraints.

Secretary Hagel and Minister Barak agreed that the United States-Israeli defense relationship has never been stronger than during the Obama administration and that both nations will continue this unprecedented close cooperation.

More after the jump.
The leaders discussed the range of security interests shared by the U.S. and Israel, including the need for the Syrian regime to maintain control over chemical and biological weapons in their country; the leaders pledged to continue U.S.-Israel contingency planning to counter that potential threat.

Regarding Iran, Secretary Hagel reiterated that President Obama is committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon with all options on the table. He stated that the United States continues to believe there is still time to address this issue through diplomacy, but that window is closing.

Secretary Hagel noted the two have had an outstanding working relationship dating back to Minister Barak’s days as prime minister and he thanked Minister Barak for his kind words at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference. Secretary Hagel expressed his desire to visit Israel soon and Minister Barak stated that Israel looks forward to hosting him in the near future.

Sanctions, Sabotage & Sangfroid: Turning Back Iranian Nukes

Before Obama took office in January 2009, the Iranian nuclear program was proceeding unabated and Iran was said to be months away from a nuclear weapon. Now, while there are those who claim that “Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon,” we actually have signs of progress in the effort to stop Iran.

In an interview with The Telegraph , Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reports that:

“Iran has drawn back from its ambition to build a nuclear weapon but the respite is only temporary and Tehran will still have to be confronted by next summer…

An immediate crisis was avoided in the summer when Iran quietly chose to use over a third of its medium-enriched uranium for civilian purposes, delaying the moment when it could have built a nuclear bomb. Without this decision, Mr Barak told The Daily Telegraph, the situation would “probably” have peaked before the US presidential election…

Mr Barak said this decision “allows contemplating delaying the moment of truth by eight to 10 months”. As for why Iran had drawn back, the minister said: “There could be at least three explanations. One is the public discourse about a possible Israeli or American operation deterred them from trying to come closer. It could probably be a diplomatic gambit that they have launched in order to avoid this issue culminating before the American election, just to gain some time. It could be a way of telling the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] ‘oh we comply with our commitments’.”
Mr Barak added: “Maybe it’s a combination of all these three elements. I cannot tell you for sure.”

But this decision had probably avoided a crisis. Asked whether the critical moment would otherwise have arrived “about now”, Mr Barak replied simply: “Probably yes.”

The joint US-Israeli pressure against Iran has taken a number of forms:

  • Spies (presumably American or Israeli) have planted explosives on vehicles in Tehran and assassinated a number of key Iranian nuclear physicists instrumental to the success of the Iranian Nuclear Program while yet other physicists have been encourages to seek asylum.
  • Intense global sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy, causing the Iranian Rial to lose most of its value in recent months leading to strikes and popular unrest in the Iranian marketplaces.
  • Ahmadinjad’s personal photographer was enticed to seek asylum in the United States during the latest United Nations General Assembly. This is a real coup for US intelligence since he came to the US with two suitcases packed with recordings of visits by the Iranian president and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of top-secret nuclear facilities and Revolutionary Guards installations.
  • As a sign of the international community’s resolve to use force against Iran if necessary, a 26-nation fleet led by the United States and Britain held war games in the strategic Straits of Hermuz, simulating the kind of military cooperation which would be required to breach an Iranian blockade keep oil flowing through the Straits in case of war with Iran.
  • Similarly, the US and Israel just completed war games to demonstrate our ability to defend Israel from missile attacks. These war games were the largest ones that the US or Israel had ever taken part in.
  • DEBKAFile reports: “The sabotage of the Fordo uranium enrichment facility’s power lines on Aug. 17, gave Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu the extra leeway to move his original red line for Iran from late September 2012 – now – to the spring or early summer of 2013.”
  •  Stuxnet is believed to have been designed as a joint US-Israeli covert initiative. This computer virus infiltrated Iranian nuclear facilities, recorded sensor readings and then destroyed the Iranian nuclear centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control while false sensor readings were displayed in order to prevent the operators from being aware of what was going on.
  • The United States has supplied Israel with the powerful “bunker-busting” bombs necessary to penetrate Iranian defenses.
  • DEBKAFile reports that a secret Iranian missile base was struck by a triple blast just before Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon to declear that Israel was destined to “disappear”.

Cartoon reprinted courtesy of Yaakov (Dry Bones) Kirschen www.DryBonesBlog.blogspot.com.

Obama’s Support of Israel Gets My Support

— by Richard Rosenblatt

As an old, loyal, American Jew who cares about Israel I want to explain why I am committed to Obama for a second term as president.  I am a WWII veteran and former USAF pilot.  In the early 1930s I traveled to Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv to visit an uncle, an aunt, and my grandparents. I returned on many occasions.

I have watched U.S. administrations come and go in the years since the British Mandate. Never has any American president done more for Israel than has President Obama. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, The Jerusalem Post, and Ambassador Shapiro have all spoken out publicly confirming Obama’s extraordinary support and unconditional commitment to Israel.

The following are some of the areas in which Obama has exceeded all other U.S. presidents in his actions to support the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel:

  • Obama provided Israel with the largest amount of military aid in U.S. history.
  • Obama has restored Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge with advanced weaponry.
  • Obama’s diplomatic support for Israel in the UN and around the world is unparalleled and unprecedented.
  • Obama recently personally and forcefully intervened to rescue Israel’s diplomats in Cairo.
  • President Obama said in front of the United Nations,

    “Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them… Those are facts. They cannot be denied.”

A Tale of Two Trips

— by Elizabeth Leibowitz

Perhaps the most interesting moment in Monday’s presidential debate was one of President Obama’s best lines of the night:

…when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fundraisers, I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.” He continued, saying, “I went down to the border towns of Sderot … I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms, and I was reminded of … what that would mean if those were my kids, which is why, as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.

Now, let me begin by saying that I know Romney visited Yad Vashem in 2007 and traveled to Sderot in 2011. But when the details of the two men’s trips to Israel as presidential candidates are contrasted and evaluated for who was more “presidential,” only one individual fits the bill.

President Obama visited Israel during his 2008 presidential campaign and met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then-opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and – unlike Governor Mitt Romney – with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He traveled to Sderot, where he talked with families who faced the daily fear of Palestinian rocket fire. He visited Yad Vashem, where he laid a wreath on a tomb that contains ashes from Nazi extermination camps. Obama’s trip to Israel greatly affected his actions once in office, prompting him to provide record aid to Israel, restore the country’s Qualitative Military Edge, fund the Iron Dome missile defense system, and more.

Governor Romney had quite a different trip as a candidate. He did meet with Peres, Netanyahu, and various other Israeli leaders — though he opted to cancel his meeting with the Labor Party’s Shelly Yachimovich. He chose to only meet with Fayyad, selecting to return to Jerusalem on the eve of Tisha B’Av to focus on his speech as well as his $50,000-a-plate fundraiser. Standing in front of his supporters, Romney spoke broadly about his stances on the Middle East, all the while dishing out subtle jabs at the President and breaking the “politics stop at the water’s edge” protocol. The next day, he managed to stretch U.S.-Palestinian relations even further when he chalked up the difference between Israeli and Palestinian economies to “culture.” During Romney’s August 2012 trip as a candidate, there was no trip to Sderot, no visit to Yad Vashem, and no conversations with average Israelis about their hopes for the future. Instead, his trip to Israel served a political purpose.

There is only one candidate in the 2012 race whose trip to Israel was presidential and whose actions afterward were presidential-President Barack Obama.

Israelis Thank Obama for Unprecedented Missile Defense Support

— by David A. Harris

Since President Barack Obama entered office back in 2009, the NJDC has been reporting the facts about his extensive pro-Israel record. But even with all of the praise from Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, what do average Israelis have to say about the President and his commitment to securing Israel — especially when it comes to missile defense programs like the Iron Dome?

Quotes follow the jump.
Sasson from Sderot — which faces daily rocket attacks from Hamas — said:

Sderot is important to him. The Jewish people are important to him. The State of Israel is important to him. .. Obama is sympathetic to our problems and he supports the protection of the citizens of Israel.

Chaim Yosef, another Sderot resident, said:

Before the Iron Dome I was afraid to fall asleep because every time the siren went off, I knew I had to run to safety. Now, with the Iron Dome existing, I am a lot less fearful.

 

Wolf Blitzer asks Ehud Barak about US-Israel Relations

— by Andy Newbold

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak threw cold water on the right-wing media narrative that President Obama is anti-Israel, praising Obama for doing “more” for Israeli security than any other U.S. president.

In an interview with Wolf Blitzer that aired yesterday on CNN’s The Situation Room, Barak responded to a question about the state of the current U.S.-Israeli relationship by saying, “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past.”

BLITZER: You’ve studied U.S.-Israeli relations over many years. How would you describe the relationship today?

BARAK: I think that from my point of view as defense minister they are extremely good, extremely deep and profound. I can see long years, administrations of both sides of the political aisle deeply supporting the state of Israel, and I believe that reflects the profound feelings among the American people. But I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing, in regard to our security, more than anything that I can remember in the past.

BLITZER: More than any other president? LBJ, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush?

BARAK: Yeah, in terms of the support for our security, the cooperation of our intelligence, the sharing of thoughts in a very open way even when there are differences, which are not simple sometimes, I found their support for our defense very stable.

More after the jump.
Barak’s praise for Obama on Israeli security flies in the face of the right-wing media’s false narrative that Obama is hostile to Israel, a narrative that goes as far back as 2008. These bogus attacks include claims that Obama and members of his administration are anti-Semitic and that Obama may use military force against Israel.  

Just yesterday, conservative media figures added to this narrative by remarking that Obama, as president, hasn’t visited Israel.

During an appearance on Fox News’ Special Report, Fox contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol praised Romney’s recent visit to Israel while noting that “President Obama has not been in Israel as President of the United States.” Fox’s Sean Hannity similarly said that it is an “alarming fact that after nearly four years in office, President Obama has yet to visit our closest ally in the Middle East in what is now a very troubling time.”

In fact, Obama visited Israel as a candidate, just like Mitt Romney, and it is not unusual for a president to not make a trip to Israel during a first term. Furthermore, none of the previous three Republican presidents made trips to Israel at this point in their presidencies, and neither Ronald Reagan nor George H.W. Bush traveled to Israel as president at all.  

Panetta: U.S. “Won’t Allow Iran to Develop a Nuclear Weapon. Period”


U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stressed the U.S. “rock solid commitment to the security of Israel and to the security of its citizens” during his visit to the Iron Dome battery in Israel, August 1.

— by Danielle Lehrer

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta landed in Israel to reaffirm the “close defense ties between Israel and the U.S” and to discuss efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. Panetta met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. According to the Defense Department, stopping Iran’s nuclear program was “square on the agenda.”

Panetta stated during his trip:

Israeli and American leaders ‘continue to work together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon.’

‘What we are discussing is various contingencies and how we would respond,’ Panetta said. ‘We don’t talk about specific military plans. We continue to run a number of options in that area, but the discussions I will have in Israel [will be to determine] the threat we are confronting and to share both information and intelligence on it.’

And:

‘The United States,’ he said, ‘will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Period.’

‘I want you and the people of Israel to know a few things that have not and will not change,’ he said. ‘The United States stands firmly with Israel and we have a rock solid commitment to the security of Israel and to the security of its citizens.’

After his praise for the Obama Administration this week, Barak said:

When we say all the options are on the table, and when the Americans say all the options are on the table, we mean it, and I believe the Americans mean it.

During his trip, Panetta visited one of the U.S.-funded Iron Dome batteries that are protecting Israel from rocket attacks. The American Forces Press Service published an article today about how the Iron Dome missile defense system is an important demonstration of U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation. Click here to read it.

More photos from Panetta’s trip appear after the jump.

Sec. Clinton Meets with Peres and Other Leaders in Israel

— by Max Samis

As part of her current overseas diplomatic trip, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is currently in the State of Israel, her fourth such trip during her time in office. During her visit, Clinton is expected to discuss a wide range of topics with a number of prominent Israeli leaders.

Ilon Ben Zion of The Times of Israel reported:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton landed in Israel early Monday morning for a two-day visit following a trip to Egypt. She was accompanied by US Middle East envoy David Hale and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents Washington at the talks between world powers and Iran.

Clinton met with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem Monday morning and was set to hold meetings with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day. She will also meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at her hotel in Jerusalem. This is Clinton’s fourth visit to Israel since taking office…

During her visit, Clinton is also expected to try to make inroads in restarting direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Clinton will likely ask the Israeli government to release Palestinians imprisoned in Israel since before the Oslo peace process, and will ask President Mahmoud Abbas to refrain from requesting observer state status from the UN.

Upon landing, Clinton paid a visit to the residence of Israel President Shimon Peres, where the two leaders held a joint press conference. Barak Ravid of Haaretz wrote:

Talking to the press, Clinton said, ‘It is a time of uncertainty but also of a big opportunity in the region. At times like these friends like us need to work together in a smart, creative and courageous way…’

Following his meeting with Clinton, Peres said that, Egypt is a key state in the region and that Israel wants to uphold the peace treaty with Egypt. ‘We respect the results of the elections in Egypt, and hope for another 30 years of peace,’ he said.

Peres added that he was convinced that there is international understanding of the danger that the Iranian regime represents to the world, and highlighted that the sanctions that have been imposed on Iran have started to work.

‘I hope that Iran will return to its rich legacy and be a country that does not threaten anyone, and no one makes threats against,’ he said.

More after the jump.
Greer Fay Cashman of The Jerusalem Post also reported:

Clinton praised Peres, saying no other individual had done so much to build the alliance between Israel and the US. ‘Few people know the inextricable link between security and peace,’ she stated.

Peres was also complimentary of Clinton, referring to her as ‘a constant friend’ who is “blowing the wind of freedom all over the world.”

Peres told Clinton that he appreciated the fact that she came to Israel immediately after Egypt because Egypt is the key country in the Middle East and it depends on Egypt and Israel to continue the march of freedom for the whole of the region.

Peres reiterated what he has frequently said, that peace between Israel and Egypt has saved the lives of thousands of Egyptians and Israelis.

You can watch the video of Clinton’s remarks here or below. You can also see photos from Clinton’s visit with Peres below. The full transcript of Clinton’s remarks can also be read here.

Clinton also paid a visit to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, where she spoke with Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Speaking to the staff and families of the embassy and consulate, Clinton said:

But mostly I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the work that you do every single day here in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv supporting the extraordinarily important ties between the United States and Israel, working with the Palestinian Authority on so many of the issues that are critically important, assisting a huge number of Americans who visit this area, and of course, continuing our commitment as we seek to support a lasting peace. You are working at the forefront of one of our most important and challenging diplomatic efforts. Here in the Consulate General you are assisting with development and security, helping to build the infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. In the Embassy you’re sustaining one of our most important alliances, building the people-to-people connections that are so important to our relationship. And over the last year and a half, you’ve all continued to promote American interests amid the turbulence and unpredictable circumstances of the changes sweeping the region.

Looking at all of you is very reassuring. I read cables. I get reports. But I like seeing you in person. And it’s not just because you handle so many complex issues with great poise and professionalism, but it’s also frankly because this group represents the sort of collaboration across ethnicities and faiths that is so essential in the 21st century. It’s essential to move toward the goals of bringing people together, of finding common ground, and of building a future based on mutual respect and mutual interests…

So from President Obama and myself, thank you. Thank you for your exemplary service, your commitment, for representing the United   States so well. We may not always say it, but we know it, and whenever I get a chance to say it, I try to do so because I want you to hear it: We know what you’re doing and we appreciate it very, very much.

Click here to read her full remarks.

Clinton also met with Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, discussing the various security needs facing Israel and the ongoing cooperation between the two countries. Stuart Winer of The Times of Israel, along with the AP, wrote:

Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday saying the bonds between Israel and America are strong.

‘The Americans consistently and constantly backup Israel’s security needs,’ Barak said in the meeting.

Clinton’s remarks from her meeting with Barak can be read here.

Clinton is also expected to attend a dinner with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later this evening, followed by a press conference in Jerusalem.

Clinton is just the latest official from the Obama administration to visit Israel, following National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and ahead of the just-announced visit by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.