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President Obama's Visit to Israel: U.S. Policy Priorities

JINSA Report #: 

March 14, 2013

Next week, President Obama will make his first visit to Israel as president. The bonds that exist between Jerusalem and Washington are built upon mutual strategic interests and a solid foundation of shared cultural and political values. At the same time, both countries face common threats where cooperation and sharing in defense technologies have clearly been of great benefit to both.

Israel is the only ally in the region whose interests are closely aligned with those of the United States. A strong and secure Israel is an essential element of national security strategy upon which American military planners can rely. Israel is a great resource for the United States in its own right and can help America to better understand regional trends as well as influence outcomes that would support U.S. regional interests.

Given the high levels of instability and uncertainty in the region at this time, we urge President Obama to make it clear to both our allies and adversaries that:

  • American policy is to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons capability and not to depend on containing it if it does so. Only with the heaviest possible pressure and with a united American-Israeli front can there be a reasonable chance to slow Iran's march toward developing a nuclear weapon. All strategies, such as engagement, sanctions, covert operations, regime change, and the credible threat of military attack must be implemented simultaneously. Taking military action off the table undermines all other options short of war.

  • If President Obama must encourage resumption of talks between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the two parties should meet without preconditions. He must reject the notion that the burden for reaching any agreement should fall disproportionately on Israel. As long as Israel's neighbors continue to believe that the Jewish presence in the Middle East is only temporary and that time is on their side, they will continue to condone violence and terror to achieve their goals.

  • Israel is rightly concerned about the possible transfer of advanced or nonconventional weapons to Islamist militant groups in the region. Failure to prevent such weapons transfers today is likely to have serious negative consequences in the future for our own country, for Israel, and for our friends in the Middle East. As a measure supportive of both American and Israeli interests, President Obama must voice support for Israeli preemptive operations that deny our mutual enemies lethal capabilities.

  • The United States will continue ensuring that Israel has the defensive and offensive capabilities needed to deter and fight its enemies. Preserving Israel's Qualitative Military Edge (QME) is of utmost importance to the fulfillment of our shared goals.

  • The United States will continue to work with Israel and our regional friends to identify and support new strategic partnerships, while continuing to buttress traditional friends in need of our backing. Jordan remains a key ally for both the United States and Israel. In light of the challenges now facing the monarchy, Jordan's stability should be a priority objective.

  • President Obama should make clear that the United States regards Egyptian fulfillment of the terms of the peace treaty with Israel, preservation of unfettered passage of international shipping through the Suez Canal, prevention of smuggling across Egyptian borders, securement of the Sinai Peninsula, and zero tolerance for the presence of terrorist organizations on Egyptian soil to be necessary and would view violations with grave concern.

American leadership is critical for the stability of the Middle East. Withdrawal from the region will undermine U.S. interests in regional stability, interests that are currently being threatened by the ongoing upheavals in the Middle East and Africa. We urge President Obama to make it clear that the United States will remain firmly connected to the region and its closest ally, Israel.

Jewish Institute for National Security of America
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