WASHINGTON – White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew told The Jerusalem Post on
Thursday that the US and Israel “have never had a closer
He dismissed widespread reports of tension between his
boss, US President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Binyamin
“I don’t start from the premise that there’s a problem,” said
Lew, the first Orthodox White House chief of staff, during a telephone interview
in which he was speaking in his personal rather than official
“The fact is the United States and Israel have never had a
closer relationship working day to day on matters of national security at every
Asked how Obama would handle relations with Netanyahu in a second
term, Lew said, “I speak to the future by reference to the past,” and described
that past as a “level of cooperation and coordination that has never been
He pointed to the president’s commitment to funding the Iron
Dome short-range missile defense system as well as more efforts key to Israel’s
security, and other demonstrations that he was a friend of Israel.
about perceptions of US pressure on Israel during Obama’s early efforts to
broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Lew said that there had been “a
lot of misinterpretation of things.”
He said he expects Obama to pursue a
similar course on Middle East peace, should he be reelected.
continues to be of the view that it is in Israel’s best interest and the
interest of regional and world security to continue to push forward on the peace
process,” said Lew.
“The role that he has played is the role that the
United States has played in the past – to help bring the parties together, but
not force the parties,” Lew said, though he didn’t offer any indication of how
Obama hoped to find success when his efforts of the past four years have not
resulted in progress.
“It has been very hard,” he acknowledged. “But just
because it’s hard doesn’t mean you don’t pursue it.”
officials have indicated Obama would make his first visit to Israel as president
in a second term, Lew said simply that “he wants to go again,” referring to
trips Obama made before he became president.
Lew declined to address the
results of recent polls showing that Israelis overwhelmingly back Republican
candidate Mitt Romney over Obama.
According to an October Peace Index
survey, conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University,
Jewish Israelis prefer Romney over Obama by a margin of 57 percent to
“I don’t follow domestic polls, much less international polls,” Lew
But he added that there was still “very strong support” for Obama
within the American Jewish community, describing it as comparable to Jewish
support for Democratic candidates in previous elections.
Lew was speaking
to the Post ahead of an event sponsored by the Orthodox Union in Ohio featuring
surrogates representing both candidates. He has also traveled to Florida to make
the case for Obama to Jewish voters there.
The neck-and-neck nature of
the US race has spurred efforts such as Lew’s to reach out to Jewish voters in
swing states, even if they are a small fraction of the electorate.
candidates realize that 1,000 votes here and there make a difference, and it’s
very important to the president that he make his case,” he said.