Jews around the world will soon be concluding their Passover Seders with the generations-old plea: “Next Year in Jerusalem.”
We remember that we were once slaves in a strange land and recall the miracles that made our freedom possible. While we were miraculously rescued from the ancient pharaoh’s rule, our people have been relentlessly persecuted, targeted for genocide, and hated by too many ever since. Anti-Semitism is unfortunately still alive and dangerous.
But what we have now is the power to ensure that we remain free.
Surrounded by peoples who have been committed to its destruction, the history and survival of our young Jewish state might be as miraculous as the Exodus and at least as improbable. A strong Jewish State of Israel ensures that that our people have a safe haven and will be protected from those who seek to murder us on a daily basis. Israel provides power and meaning to the words “never again.”
Unlike what we will read in the Passover Haggadah, our people are not alone in the face of these mortal dangers.
President Barack Obama understands this. He understands the importance of the unbreakable alliance between our two nations and has repeatedly said that Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, from any threat.
Over his four years in office, President Obama’s unwavering support for the State of Israel has helped to strengthen our deep bond. Whether it is at the United Nations, through unprecedented military aid, in pursuing peace, or in his commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, the president has shown that he is firmly committed to a safe and secure Israel.
As Obama returns to Israel and embarks on the first foreign trip of his second term, Israelis and American Jews have much to be thankful for. The most powerful person in the world has proven himself, time and again, to be a steadfast supporter of that small nation halfway around the world.
You would not know from the constant, albeit not well-founded, drumbeat of Republican criticism, but the facts of Obama’s support for the Jewish state are clear and undeniable. Under President Obama, the United States has provided unprecedented support for Israel. In 2012, the US provided $3.1 billion in foreign aid to Israel, bringing the total to more than $11.4b. in aid since the President took office – and marking the largest total provided in one president’s term. This investment ensured that Israel was able to restore its Qualitative Military Edge, which had eroded during the Bush administration, and provided vital assistance during recent conflicts.
AS PRIME Minister Binyamin Netanyahu explained to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference, “I look forward to President Obama’s visit....
It will give me and the people of Israel the opportunity to express our appreciation for what he has done for Israel.”
This trip marks the third time Barack Obama has visited Israel and his first time as president. During his 2008 visit, then senator Obama visited Sderot and saw the impact of living under the daily threat of rockets being fired by terrorists in the Gaza Strip. Because of this experience, President Obama has staunchly supported Israeli development of key missile defense systems, including providing $275 million in expedited supplemental funding for Iron Dome.
Designed to intercept short-range rockets fired toward population centers, the Iron Dome is the first battle-proven missile defense system that provides vital protection to Israel’s communities. It has already saved countless lives. During Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, the Iron Dome system shot down 85 percent of the rockets targeting Israeli citizens. Israel’s ambassador to the United States Michael Oren called the Iron Dome a “game-changer” following the success of the system because it provided leaders with time to reach diplomatic solutions.
Because this system is so vital to Israel’s defensive strategy, President Obama will tour an Iron Dome battery during his first stop on the trip.
President Obama’s support for Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge goes beyond short-range missile defense. Under President Obama, the United States doubled funding for missile defense systems to over $650m. These systems – known as Arrow II, Arrow III and David’s Sling – are designed to intercept medium-to-longrange and ballistic missiles, and will join with the Iron Dome system to create a multi-layered missile defense system. The critical funding for the Arrow III system led to the first successful test of the system last month.
When Israelis welcome President Obama to Israel this week, they will greet a leader who has had Israel's back from the start, who has provided vital aid to Israel in tough times, who has protected the Jewish state on the international stage, and who has made an ironclad promise to prevent the Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons.
When I stand in Jerusalem and see President Obama reaffirming his commitment to Israel, I will remember the miracles that freed our ancestors thousands of years ago, that have sustained us, supported us, and brought us to this day. I will remember and be thankful that we now have a strong Jewish state and an unbreakable US-Israel relationship, and that our survival will never again rely on miracles alone.
The writer is the Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.