President Obama is visiting Israel—his first trip to America’s closest Mideast ally since he became commander-in-chief more than four years ago.
Obama’s relationship with Israel has been famously tumultuous, prickly, and sometimes downright uncomfortable. On Wednesday, the president —who was greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Tel Aviv airport—reconfirmed America’s commitment to Israel.
The “United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and greatest friend,” said Obama, adding that “I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and to speak directly to Israel and to your neighbors.”
At home, Obama’s support among Jews has decreased since 2008. Four years ago he won 78% of the Jewish vote, compared to 69% last year.
Here’s a look back at what’s happened since 2008:
2008 – Obama confirms commitment to Israel
The last time Obama visited Israel was as a presidential contender in 2008. At the time, he was trying to ameliorate skepticism that he wasn’t committed to the country. He had come under intense criticism for his ties to former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who delivered harsh rhetoric about Israel. He was also being dogged by baseless rumors that he was a Muslim. His opponent, John McCain, sent out a fundraising letter that Obama’s foreign policy had “even won him praise from Hamas leaders.”
2009—Obama’s speech in Cairo ruffles feathers
President Obama delivered a speech in effort to reach out to the Muslim world. He came under scrutiny for ripping the Israeli government for new construction on land occupied in the 1967 Israeli war—territory that Palestinians claim as their own. At that time, Obama declared that the U.S. “does not accept the legitimacy” of the settlements. Afterward, Obama reconfirmed his commitment to Israel, but was criticized by some for not visiting the country himself.
Read more at MSNBC.com.