Despite perceptions to the contrary, ties between the United States and Israel were enhanced during the eight-year tenure of President Barack Obama, Ambassador Dan Shapiro told a large gathering of Knesset members on Tuesday.
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“When history is written about this period in the future, the historians and their readers will understand that relations between the two countries actually got stronger and closer,” Shapiro said at a farewell reception hosted in his honor by the Knesset caucus on U.S.-Israel relations.
“It is true that there were controversies, and it is true that there were arguments, but it is also true that that is perfectly natural when it comes to friends,” he added, delivering his address in fluent Hebrew.
The outgoing ambassador, who will remain in Israel at least for the next few months so that his children can finish the school year here, said he had “always been guided by the vision of Obama, who sent me here with his commitment to strengthen the ties between our two countries.”
In an emotional farewell, Knesset members from across the political spectrum showered Shapiro with words of praise and appreciation. Representatives of all the parties, except the ultra-Orthodox factions and the Joint Arab List, attended the reception.
Neither the names of President-elect Donald Trump nor Shapiro’s presumed successor, David Friedman, were mentioned at the gathering. Only one Knesset member – Tamar Zandberg of the left-wing Meretz party – alluded to Israeli concerns about the future under the new administration. Praising Shapiro for successfully fighting those determined to undermine the bipartisan nature of relations between the two countries, she said: “I hope your legacy carries over because the voices we’ve been hearing in the meantime give us cause for concern.”
MK Nachman Shai, co-chair of the Knesset caucus for U.S.-Israel relations and a member of the Zionist Union, noted that Obama’s term in office was ending “with a bitter taste” for many in Israel. “But I believe history will judge things differently,” he said. “There was not an economic, military or political campaign that Israel launched over the past eight years in which the United States did not stand with us shoulder to shoulder.”
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, who represented the government at the gathering, called Shapiro “the best U.S. ambassador ever in Israel.”