The Obama administration justified its foreign aid spending late Monday, days after Republican presidential candidates promised that if elected, they would reconsider all foreign aid packages – including Israel’s.

During a press briefing held in Honolulu, Hawaii, a White House official said that “there are a number of countries where the United States directly benefits from having a role in those countries, and that we can certainly help – that the provision of civilian assistance is critical to the success of promoting American interests and serving American interests in countries around the world.”

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration had “strengthened our ties with [Israel], and provided significant assistance in the form of the Iron Dome project and others that are critical to Israel’s security.”

Israel rocket defense systems have received over $250 million in American funds.

Speaking at the Republican presidential foreign policy debate over the weekend, Texas Governor Rick Perry said he would start all foreign aid – including Israel’s – at zero. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney agreed with Perry.

Although Perry later said that Israel was a “special ally” and would receive “substantial” funding, he stopped short of committing to maintain aid to Jerusalem at its current levels.

Following the debate, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said she was “aghast that the leading Republican contenders for president tonight, including Mitt Romney, pledged to zero out the foreign aid budget, including the traditional and vital support the US has provided the Jewish State of Israel for its security.”

She declared that “I cannot think of a more irresponsible, risky or deplorable position toward our most important friend and ally. That Mitt Romney and these candidates would sacrifice the security of the State of Israel for an applause line at a debate and to appeal to the far-right-wing Tea Party faction of the Republican base, shows that not a single one of them has what it takes to be commander-in-chief.”

Wasserman Schultz added that “Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican field clearly do not understand the vital need for the US to consistently stand by our friend and ally, Israel, and not only when it’s politically popular.”

Democrats cited the Obama administration’s decision to authorize the sale of bunker-buster bombs to Israel, which former president George W.

Bush had previously denied, as well as a total aid package of approximately $3 billion.

Shortly after the debate, during a weekend appearance in the Detroit Jewish community, Vice President Joe Biden said that “America’s support for Israel is not just an act of friendship.

It’s an act of fundamental national selfinterest on the part of the United States – a key component of our broader effort to secure the region and the wider world.”

He emphasized that “the president, with the help of Congress, has secured $3b. in annual assistance for Israel, the most ever.”

Arguing that the Obama administration had supported Israel in the face of a “sustained, aggressive attempt to delegitimize” the Jewish state, Biden told his audience that “the bond between the United States and Israel is unshakeable, and that is why, ladies and gentlemen, as my dear grandfather used to say, ‘Keep the faith.’”

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