President Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff Jacob Lew addressed the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Washington, DC and spoke about the President’s work to strengthen the economy and to support Israel.
Lew opened by discussing the President’s domestic policies:
We still have a long way to go before our economy is fully recovered ... But today, we are beginning to see what change looks like.
Because over the past 25 months, businesses have added more than 4.1 million jobs. Manufacturers are hiring for the first time since the 1990s. And the American auto industry is back on top.
That’s not all. Today, taxes are at historically low rates for middle class families and small businesses have seen their taxes cut 18 times since President Obama took office.
At the same time, our dependence on foreign oil is below 50 percent for the first time in more than a decade.
That’s good for our economy, and just as importantly, it’s good for our national security.
Of course, there’s so much more: protecting a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work; historic healthcare reform that is already saving seniors money on prescription drugs, and helping young people buy insurance on their parents’ health plans; student loan reform that cuts out the middlemen, and gives more young people the chance to go to college.
That’s what change looks like. While we still have a long way to go, together we are restoring the values that helped build the world’s most prosperous economy and strongest middle class. Today, President Obama is fighting for an America where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
Lew plainly stated that when it comes to Israel, “President Obama gets it”:
Much has changed since President Obama took office. But one thing that has never changed is the President’s commitment to the state of Israel….
In 2008, President Obama said, and I quote, ‘Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is nonnegotiable.’ He has never wavered from that conviction.
The President believes deeply that the United States and Israel share common interests, and common values. And I invite you to look at what President Obama has done while in office. At every crucial moment during the last four years, we have been there when Israel needed us.
This begins with the cooperation between our militaries, which has never been closer. Even in the midst of a truly difficult budgetary environment, our military aid for Israel has increased every single year. We have shared cutting-edge military technology.
As the President has put it, and I quote, ‘We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge, because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.’
Put simply, President Obama gets it. As a Senator, he traveled to Sderot and met with families living in fear of rocket fire. He knows the threats that still exist. And that is why he has provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that otherwise could have cost innocent Israelis their lives.
President Obama has supported Israel through diplomacy as well. When the Goldstone Report unfairly singled out Israel, we challenged it. When the Durban conference was used as an excuse to attack the Jewish State, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism.
When the General Assembly of the United Nations convened last year, President Obama told the leaders gathered there that any lasting peace must acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and its legitimate security concerns.
That’s an easy thing to say here. It was not such an easy thing to say there….
And I am also proud to say that President Obama understands that part of maintaining Israel’s long-term security as a Jewish state is pursuing a just and lasting peace-he has echoed the call made by leaders such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and President Shimon Peres, in calling for a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state.
No one has labored longer or harder in pursuit of peace than President Peres, and to honor his lifetime of service and achievement, President Obama looks forward to awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom this summer in Washington.
Lew said regarding the President’s work to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program:
When President Obama took office, international efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program were at a standstill. Iran was asserting itself throughout the region, and the international community could not come to agreement about how to respond.
Today, because of President Obama’s leadership, the situation is very different. After Iran’s leaders rejected the President’s diplomatic engagement, he mobilized the international community, and put the regime in Tehran under greater pressure than ever before.
Today, unprecedented sanctions have helped to slow Iran’s nuclear program, and tightened the economic screws on the regime. This summer, sanctions will become even tougher.
So in just a few years, the Iranian regime has seen a reversal of fortune. Today, their leadership is divided and under pressure.
Even as we continue to work towards a diplomatic solution, we’re going to keep up the pressure, because President Obama takes the threat from Iran extremely seriously. He has made clear his is not a policy of containment; it is a policy of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And in pursuit of that policy, the President has taken no options off the table.
Click here to read Lew’s full remarks.
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