Through both his words and actions, President Obama expressed an unwavering support for Israel, helped assuage doubts about America’s commitment to Israeli security and strengthened the state’s relationship with the U.S. He also put Iran on notice that the allies are united, rather than divided, over the need to halt Tehran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.
Throughout Obama’s first term, uneasiness mounted around the previously rock-solid bond between the United States and Israel. While shared values, counter terrorism and military cooperation were never in question, the apparent lack of chemistry between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was often in the spotlight. The U.S.-Israel relationship was challenged in the most significant way in decades. Many observers feared the growing rift would weaken Israel and motivate the Jewish state’s adversaries.
When the presidential visit to the Holy Land was announced, cautious optimism reverberated throughout the Jewish state. But during his trip, President Obama went above and beyond to lay any worries to rest. The itinerary of Obama’s trip was infused with symbolism, underscoring American support for Israel’s right to exist in the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.
Prior to President Obama’s visit, many worried that he viewed the Jewish state and its legitimacy chiefly in the context of the Holocaust. And if Obama saw Israel as merely a consolation prize to Jews for facing near extermination during World War II, then that would make the Palestinians victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the Jewish state was reestablished. However, Obama repeatedly alluded to Israel’s 3,000 years of Jewish history during his latest visit. He also paid an emblematic visit to the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, who had spoken of the need for a Jewish state since the 1800’s.
"Atem lo levad," said Obama in Hebrew as the nation tuned in to watch a speech directly chiefly at the Israeli people. “You are not alone.” Those three simple words, spoken in their native tongue, resonated with Israelis and reinforced that the president and the United States are irrevocably on the side of the Jewish state.