Israel Urges U.S. to Reaffirm Support in Light of Egypt Unrest

U.S. officials meeting Barak stress administration's 'unshakeable' commitment; Israeli envoy: Foreign aid to Israel can't be taken for granted.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday stressed the importance of U.S. support for Israeli security in light of the political unrest in Egypt, while Ambassador Michael Oren urged the Obama administration to reaffirm its commitment to that regard.

Barak met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon at the White House on Wednesday evening,  to discuss the tense situation in Egypt.

Ehud Barak Emil Salman 17.1.2011
Emil Salman

The White House press office said the meeting dealt with “the need to move forward on Middle East peace, our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and other regional and bilateral issues.”

The U.S. officials stressed their country’s “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, including through our continued support for Israel’s military, and the unprecedented security cooperation between our two governments,” the White House said in its statement.

Barak's spokesman characterized the meeting as “excellent”.

Israel envoy Oren later Wednesday conveyed a similar message when he urged the administration to reaffirm its commitment to Israel, in an address to the Congressional Israel Allies Сaucus reception on Capitol Hill.

"The Israeli people would like to see the Egyptian people to enjoy the same liberties as we do, but there is also an anxiety and concern, because we've seen the democratic process being hijacked by radicals in Iran and Gaza," Oren said.

"We turn to the U.S. and send a message that we need your commitment to our security, especially today when the foreign aid for Israel cannot be taken for granted," Oren added. "We call upon you to maintain the same level of commitment to Israel’s security”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Barak met with the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and emphasized the importance of retaining the same level of assistance to Israel.

Following Wednesday's meetings, Barak left for New York, where he is schedule to meet Friday with Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) told Haaretz in the aftermath of the meetings that he did not foresee any changes U.S. support for Israel.

“I think [cutting aid to Israel is] unlikely to happen. When there are deficits, it’s very easy to start talking about cutting foreign aid, because most people don’t care about foreign aid, but there is strong bipartisan support for Israel at the Congress”, said Engel.

Asked about the perceived foreign policy flip-flop of the U.S. administration on the situation in Egypt, Representative Engel said, “The message is mixed because it has to be mixed – on the one hand, you want to promote freedom and democracy, but on the other hand you don’t want it to slip into a situation similar to the Iranian revolution."

"We also have an obligation to the people who worked with us trying to keep stability in the Middle East, and the U.S. has to be a reliable friend," Engel added. "If the moment someone slips and falls, we kick him out of the door – we won’t have any friends in the future."

"It’s a very delicate balance. We all know Mubarak has finally got to go, but the administration is trying to work a very delicate balance to maintain stability,” Engel added.

“The situation is volatile and it changes every day, but I don’t think that the U.S. government will accept a new Egyptian government that doesn’t recognize the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel," Engel said.