Through both his words and actions, Mr. 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 nuclear weapons capability.
Throughout Mr. Obama's first term, uneasiness mounted around the previously rock-solid bond between the U.S. and Israel. While shared values, counterterrorism and military cooperation were never in question, the apparent lack of chemistry between Mr. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was often in the spotlight. The U.S.-Israeli 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 Israel. But during his trip, Mr. Obama went above and beyond to lay any worries to rest, infusing his trip's itinerary with symbolism, underscoring American support for Israel's right to exist in the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people.
Prior to the visit, many worried that he viewed the Jewish state and its legitimacy chiefly in the context of the Holocaust. And if Mr. Obama saw Israel as merely a consolation prize to Jews for their near-extermination during World War II, then that would make the Palestinians victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, Mr. 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 1800s.
"Atem lo levad," Mr. Obama said in Hebrew as the nation tuned in to watch a speech directed chiefly at the Israeli people. "You are not alone." Those three simple words, spoken in their native tongue, resonated with Israelis and reinforced the message that the president and the U.S. are irrevocably on the side of the Jewish state.
The president also pronounced that those who seek Israel's destruction "might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above." The powerful declaration is loaded with meaning, especially for Iran and its terrorist proxies who cling to the idea that the Jewish state can be wiped off the map.
Mr. Obama's unequivocal statements that America is in Israel's corner will hopefully discourage enemies of peace who have questioned America's resolve when it comes to standing with Israel.
Another important result of Mr. Obama's charm offensive was brokering reconciliation between Israel and Turkey. With a phone call to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama took a big step toward Israel and Turkey re-normalizing relations. This development should have been particularly worrisome for Iran, given that its neighbor Turkey is wary of a nuclear-armed Tehran.
With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (or lack thereof), Mr. Obama tried to elevate the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas above Hamas. He encouraged both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to move forward with renewed peace talks, but was adamant that the Palestinians should not use settlements as a precondition and that they must demonstrate willingness to negotiate in good faith with Israel.
The sincerity of Mr. Obama will be put to the test now that the dust has settled and the visit fades in the rear-view mirror. Huge challenges still confront America's closest ally in the region, but the Jewish state hopefully can walk a little taller with the knowledge that the world's only superpower has publicly and powerfully pledged to be in Israel's corner.
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