Published December 01, 2011
One of the most pro-Israel members of Congress offered a qualified defense of President Obama Thursday after the president claimed at a New York fundraiser that he's done more than any administration for Israel's security.
While the president has been pilloried by would-be Republican challengers over his on-again, off-again relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama claimed Wednesday evening that when it comes to military support the Jewish state has had no better friend.
"I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration," Obama said.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., a staunch supporter of Israel, gave partial support to the statement in an interview with Fox News on Thursday.
"It is true, and you'll hear this from a lot of Israeli leaders, that President Obama has been very good on supporting Israel's military and its security," Lieberman said.
But Lieberman said the diplomatic front hasn't been so rosy.
"Obviously, there have been some very tough moments between Israel and President Obama on questions such as his call for a so-called settlement freeze and the statement that he wanted to have Israel begin negotiations returning to the '67 borders," he said.
Lieberman said Obama made a "good point" about his support for Israel's security. "On the diplomatic peace process side, I think it's less positive," Lieberman said.
The president, despite some very-public efforts, has been unable to kick-start sustained peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. Some have claimed Obama's attitude toward Israel opened the door for the Palestinian statehood push at the U.N., a push Obama has opposed.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, targeted by the president's re-election committee more than any other potential challenger, said the president is in fantasy land with the latest claims.
But his administration did press for extra funding for Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system. U.S. military aid for Israel hit $3 billion in fiscal 2011, up from $2.4 billion in fiscal 2008.
"President Obama, in New York to raise campaign cash, told a group of prospective donors that 'We don’t compromise when it comes to Israel's security.' That would be great news, if it were true," Romney said in a written statement.
"Unfortunately, under the Obama administration, U.S.-Israeli relations have hit a low not seen since the Jimmy Carter years. It is not merely the way that President Obama has disparaged Israel's prime minister in public and private. U.S. policy itself is at issue. Whether the question is peace talks with the Palestinians or defining Israel's borders or keeping Iran from getting nuclear weapons, the administration has repeatedly scanted Israel's interests," he said.
At the fundraiser, Obama said the Israeli government would agree with his claim.
"Whether it's making sure that our intelligence cooperation is effective, to making sure that we're able to construct something like an Iron Dome so that we don't have missiles raining down on Tel Aviv, we have been consistent in insisting that we don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security," Obama said.