U.S. Presidents and the State of Israel

  • March 14, 2013

On March 20, 2013, President Barack Obama will visit Israel in his first official international trip of his second term. It will be his first trip to Israel as president.

President Obama will become the fifth sitting U.S. president to visit Israel. The other four were George W. Bush (twice in 2008) Bill Clinton (1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998), Jimmy Carter (1979) and Richard Nixon (1974).

The unique bond between the United States and Israel dates back to Israel’s founding in 1948. Indeed, public opinion polls taken over decades have consistently demonstrated that Americans of all backgrounds support strong U.S.-Israel relations, and view Israel as a key ally of the U.S.

This close relationship is based upon shared democratic values and strategic interests including the rejection of terrorism and violence. The U.S. has a great interest in the stability of the Middle East, a region that is afflicted by extremists who violently oppose the U.S., Israel and democracy, by rogue states with large military arsenals which include non-conventional weaponry, and other authoritarian regimes. Bolstering and supporting peace, stability and democracy in the region through relations with Israel is in America’s strategic interest.

President Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel will undoubtedly highlight the special relationship the U.S. and Israel share. American support for Israel has consistently been a bi-partisan issue, and presidents from both the Democratic and Republican parties have expressed their commitment to the alliance.

The following are quotes about Israel from every U.S. president since 1948:

Harry Truman

“I had faith in Israel before it was established, I have faith in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it—not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization."

Dwight Eisenhower

“Our forces saved the remnant of the Jewish people of Europe for a new life and a new hope in the reborn land of Israel. Along with all men of good will, I salute the young state and wish it well.”

John Kennedy

“For Israel was not created in order to disappear - Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom; and no area of the world has ever had an overabundance of democracy and freedom.”

Lyndon Johnson

“America and Israel have a common love of human freedom and they have a common faith in a democratic way of life.”

Richard Nixon

“Americans admire a people who can scratch a desert and produce a garden. The Israelis have shown qualities that Americans identify with: guts, patriotism, idealism, a passion for freedom. I have seen it. I know. I believe that.”

Gerald Ford

“My commitment to the security and future of Israel is based upon basic morality as well as enlightened self-interest. Our role in supporting Israel honors our own heritage.”

Jimmy Carter

“We have a special relationship with Israel. It's absolutely crucial that no one in our country or around the world ever doubt that our number one commitment in the Middle East is to protect the right of Israel to exist, to exist permanently, and to exist in peace. It's a special relationship. "

Ronald Reagan

“In Israel, free men and women are every day demonstrating the power of courage and faith. Back in 1948 when Israel was founded, pundits claimed the new country could never survive. Today, no one questions that. Israel is a land of stability and democracy in a region of tyranny and unrest.”

George H.W. Bush

"For more than 40 years, the United States and Israel have enjoyed a friendship built on mutual respect and commitment to democratic principles. Our continuing search for peace in the Middle East begins with a recognition that ties uniting our two countries can never be broken."

Bill Clinton

“American and Israel share a special bond. Our relationship is unique among all nations. Like America, Israel is a strong democracy, a symbol of freedom, and an oasis of liberty, a home to the oppressed and persecuted."

George W. Bush

"For more than a generation, the United States and Israel have been steadfast allies. Our nations are bound by our shared values and a strong commitment to freedom. These ties that have made us natural allies will never be broken. Israel and the United States share a common history: We are both nations born of struggle and sacrifice. We are both founded by immigrants escaping religious persecution in other lands. Through the labors and strides of generations, we have both built vibrant democracies, founded in the rule of law and market economies. And we are both countries established with certain basic beliefs: that God watches over the affairs of men and values every human life."

Barack Obama

 “The American people and the Israeli peoples share a faith in the future and believe that democracies can shape their own destinies and that opportunities should be available to all. Throughout its own extraordinary history, Israel has given life to that promise.”  (October 21, 2009)

"America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day ... The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors." (September 21, 2011)

“America’s Founding Fathers understood this truth, just as Israel’s founding generation did.  President Truman put it well, describing his decision to formally recognize Israel only minutes after it declared independence.  He said, "I had faith in Israel before it was established.  I believe it has a glorious future before it -- as not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization. For over six decades, the American people have kept that faith.  Yes, we are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share -- in security for our communities, prosperity for our people, the new frontiers of science that can light the world. But ultimately it is our common ideals that provide the true foundation for our relationship.  That is why America’s commitment to Israel has endured under Democratic and Republican Presidents, and congressional leaders of both parties. In the United States, our support for Israel is bipartisan, and that is how it should stay.” (March 4, 2012)

Some Interesting and fun facts about the U.S. and Israel:

  • Golda Meir was the only Israeli Prime Minister to have previously been a U.S. citizen;
  • An estimated 80,000 Americans living in Israel voted in the 2012 U.S. presidential election;
  • There is only one current Knesset member who was born in the U.S. – Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid, who renounced his American citizenship prior to his Knesset swearing in;
  • It is estimated that there are at least half a million Israeli citizens residing in the U.S.;
  • Israel votes 90 percent of the time with the U.S. at the United Nations;
  • There are at least 100 American companies with operations in Israel;
  • Israel currently has the third most companies traded on the U.S. NASDAQ stock exchange;
  • There are more than 50 twin U.S. and Israeli towns and cities;
  • Israel receives approximately $3 billion in U.S. aid annually;
  • The U.S. is Israel's largest single trading partner;
  • The top five U.S. exports to Israel are: diamonds, machinery, agricultural products, aircraft, and optic and medical instruments;
  • The top five U.S. imports from Israel are: diamonds, pharmaceutical products, machinery, optic and medical instruments, and agricultural products;
  • More than half a million Americans vacation in Israel every year. Some notable U.S. citizens who have visited in recent years include:
    • Bill Gates – He visited in 2005 to explore Israel’s flourish high-tech sector;
    • Madonna – She performed in Israel in 2012;
    • Quentin Tarantino – He visited in 2009 to promote his film Inglorious Bastards;
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers – They performed in Israel in 2012;
    • The Simpsons – They visited Israel in 2010 along with some friends;
    • Warren Buffett – He visited in 2006 to purchase the Israeli company Iscar