WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama signed a law enhancing US-Israel security cooperation Friday, the day before Mitt Romney flew to Israel.
In a brief Oval Office ceremony, Obama also announced $70 million in additional funds for Israel’s Iron Dome short-range missile defense system, a funding boost first announced by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in May. The money has been re-purposed from other Pentagon projects, according to the White House.
Obama was joined by two members of Congress, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) and Rep. Howard Berman (DCalifornia), a former and past chairman of the board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.
Speaking to reporters after the signing, Boxer denied that there was any political calculation when the signing was held and that it was not connected to Romney’s trip to Israel.
She noted that Congress, half of which is controlled by Republicans, was the one that dictated the pace of passage for the bill. The president has 10 days to sign a bill once it has been passed by the legislature.
The legislation codifies loan guarantees for Israel, provides additional support for Israel’s maintaining its qualitative military edge, pushes for closer cooperation between Israel and NATO, and otherwise puts into law several longstanding US policies.
“I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues – intelligence, military, technology,” Obama said before signing the new law. “And, in many ways, what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscore our unshakeable commitment to Israel security.”