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Official Trips Mark Deepening of U.S.-Israel Defense Ties

Officials from the U.S. and Israel are streaming back and forth between the two countries, as President Barack Obama solidifies his second-term team and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms the coalition for what will be his third term. A meeting between Israeli President Shimon Peres and a bipartisan Congressional delegation led by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) focused on the U.S. and Israel’s shared values and shared threats:

The president focused on human rights and Iran, since Cardin serves as the co-chair of the US’s Helsinki Commission, tasked with overseeing America’s security cooperation in Europe, and many members of the delegation serve on the commission. Israel and the US share a goal, “to maintain freedom, liberty and human rights,” the president told the American politicians.

Earlier this month, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz traveled to the United States to receive the U.S. Legion of Merit. Last week Israel’s outgoing Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the United Statesto meet with senior administration and defense officials. Later this week, Republican senator Marco Rubio will arrive in Israel and meet with Peres, Netanyahu and other leading Israeli figures.

Most prominently, Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel late next month. Peres’s office has announced that the President will receive Israel’s Presidential Medal of Distinction, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to receive the honor. In June 2012 Obama awarded Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.

Peres’s announcement cited Obama’s “unique and significant contribution to strengthening the State of Israel and the security of its citizens,” especially identifying assistance provided toward the development of Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system. The defensive system has become a prominent symbol of close U.S.-Israeli security ties, and Obama is slated to tour an Iron Dome battery on his trip. The system has also been cited as a prominent instance of where U.S. security assistance to Israel – 75 percent of which is spent in the United States – directly boosts the warfighting and defense capabilities of the U.S. and its allies. Missile defense experts have noted that the system can be deployed with U.S. ground units in places like Afghanistan, and both South Korea and Singapore are known to be interested in purchasing versions of the platform.

[Photo: NatanFlayer / Wiki Commons]