- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Israeli President Shimon Peres said President Obama will be awarded one of Israel’s highest honors, the Presidential Medal of Distinction, when Mr. Obama visits in March.

The medal recognizes Mr. Obama’s “unique and significant contribution to strengthening the state of Israel and the security of its citizens,” according to a report in The Guardian.

Likely, the award won’t do much to sway the mindsets of those who see Mr. Obama’s foreign policy as damaging to Israeli-American relations.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for example, accused Mr. Obama during the campaign of “repeated efforts” to “throw Israel under the bus,” The Guardian reminded. And most recently, Mr. Obama’s choice for secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel, has been stalled by Republicans in the Senate who decry previous disparaging comments he made about pro-Israeli lobbyists, The Guardian said.

Relations between Israel and the United States were particularly cold in the lead-up to Mr. Obama’s election. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced several times to publicly remind of its sovereign right to defend itself against perceived nuclear threats from Iran — even if that defense led to military action — in the face of U.S. criticism and calls to soften tones.

Mr. Peres and Mr. Netanyahu haven’t always seen eye to eye on political matters. Mr. Peres usually has adopted a softer, more conciliatory tone to Mr. Netanyahu’s more aggressive voice. For instance, in August Mr. Peres bluntly countered Mr. Netanyahu’s statements and said Israel should never launch an attack against Iran without first receiving America’s approval, according to a report in The Daily Beast.

Mr. Obama’s upcoming trip to Israel marks his first ever. The awarding of the Presidential Medal of Distinction recognizes his support specifically for Israel’s “Iron Dome” defense system, The Guardian reports.