WASHINGTON - In a rare statement and at a time of sharp Republican criticism of US President Barack Obama's Israel record, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee thanked elected leaders including the president for "steadfast" support of Israel.

"With Israel and America facing unprecedented threats and challenges in the Middle East, we deeply appreciate the close and unshakeable partnership between the United States and Israel. President Obama and the bipartisan, bicameral congressional leadership, have deepened America’s support for Israel in difficult times," said the statement issued shortly before Rosh Hashanah started on Sunday afternoon.

"Under the leadership of Democrats and Republicans, working together, US-Israel security cooperation has reached unprecedented levels," the statement said.

The statement comes during an election season in which Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for president, and his surrogates have repeatedly accused Obama of "throwing Israel under the bus" for differences with Israel over peacemaking with the Palestinians and more recently for not heeding Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's calls to issue clear red lines Iran must not cross with its suspected nuclear weapons program, or face US military action.

The AIPAC statement cites by name only two leaders: Obama and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the speaker of the US House of Representatives.

It emphasizes what it says is the need to further pressure Iran to end its nuclear weapons program, but stops short of calls for military action.

"As Rosh Hashanah nears, AIPAC -- its leadership and staff -- extends to Israel’s strongest supporters heartfelt appreciation for the work of this administration and Congress to strengthen the US-Israel relationship," the statement concluded. "We stand ready to work together in the year ahead to enable both countries to meet the serious challenges we face, especially preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities."

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