McDonough: Support for Israel’s Security – Our Values in Action

Addressing a mixed Jewish audience in the aftermath of the Iran nuclear deal debate, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Tuesday peppered his remarks with Yiddish and Hebrew phrases in an attempt to present a reset in the U.S.-Israel relationship following the meeting between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

In a speech at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly Tuesday afternoon, McDonough said that President Obama remains “grateful” for the strong support he’s always received from the Jewish community, “including so many of you.”

Mentioning the White House tradition of conducting a seder on the first night of Passover, which has led some to call him America’s first Jewish President. McDonough quipped, “I guess that makes me his shamas (a caretaker, servant).”

“I’ll admit, some of the policy debates I’ve been a part of are Talmudic. In the words of an old Irish saying, it can make me feel a little meshuganah,” he added.

Obama’s Chief of Staff also attempted to set the record straight on the president’s record on Israel as he enters the last year of his presidency. “I know that President Obama’s approach to Israel—more specifically, his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu—has been the source of endless commentary. It’s practically a cottage industry. It helps sell books,” he said. “So allow me to offer my own perspective… For President Obama, ensuring Israel’s security is not just another element of his foreign policy. It’s not a political issue. It’s a solemn commitment made by all those who sit in the Oval Office—Democrats and Republicans—going back to Harry Truman. It’s sacrosanct.”

“Under President Obama, we’ve provided more than $20 billion in foreign military financing to Israel. We’ve invested billions in missile defense systems that have saved countless Israeli lives. Next year, we’ll deliver the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making Israel the first country in the Middle East with this advanced aircraft. And as a result of the major resupply package that the President authorized this year, Israel will be guaranteed some of the most advanced military equipment in the world for years to come,” he added in an extensive line of defense.

Seizing on Netanyahu’s remarks earlier Tuesday that he’s moved on over the Iran deal, McDonough thanked the JFNA for their role “as a neutral forum where people from all sides could come together and express their views.” Like any family, “Americans and Israelis may at times disagree on some things, but our bonds are unbreakable because we always remember our core values—including our shared commitment to Israel’s security and vitality,” he stressed. Adding that Iran “has begun to meet its commitments. Iran has started putting in place the necessary measures so that the International Atomic Energy Agency will get the access and inspections it needs when it needs. Iran has begun preparations to remove two-thirds of its centrifuges. And it is moving ahead with plans to redesign its heavy reactor at Arak so it can never produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.”

He further pointed out that “Iran has not yet received any additional sanctions relief under this comprehensive deal—and it won’t until the IAEA verifies that Iran has completed every single one of the key nuclear steps required. And if Iran violates the deal over the next decade, we will snap sanctions back into place.”

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