And even with the greatest level of trust imaginable, Israel has never let any country fight its battles. Israel and can and clearly will defend the Jewish people herself. That is the Jewish state's raison d'être.
How did we get here?
Many in the pro-Israel community shook their heads and some crowed "I told you so" as the administration made early misstep after misstep. Analysts pointed not only to the troubling approach coming from a candidate, now president, they didn't fully trust. They also shook their heads at the predictable outcome of the White House approach to the peace process, where emboldened Palestinians refused to negotiate with Israel and ultimately set back the peace process to a pre-1991 status -- when the Palestinians literally refused to be in the same room as Israel.
In a private White House meeting with leaders of the Jewish community in September 2009, Obama was asked why he had moved so decisively away from the private ways in which friends like the United States and Israel usually settle their differences. Trust, participants explained to the president, was key to Israel's ability to undertake difficult choices on peace and was vital for U.S.-Israel cooperation on Iran.
"I disagree," the president responded. "Public pressure compels people to act."
A crescendo to this public tension with Israel came in the spring of 2010, when an unfortunate but meaningless announcement related to future housing construction in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem came in the midst of a vice presidential visit. It enraged the president. The White House and State Department issued a stark ultimatum that if Israel did not do what it was told, they might have to conclude that our two nations no longer share the same interests.
Despite the administration's support for increased security aid to Israel, eventual pursuit of sanctions against Iran, and continuation of U.S. support for Israel at the United Nations, these incidents and others caused deep distress among the mainstream pro-Israel community and undermined the trust between the two governments. If Obama was prepared to so casually toss aside American commitments to Israel on such sensitive and meaningful issues, what possible weight could American commitments to stop Iran's nuclear pursuit provide?
The Obama administration's approach began to shift in the fall of 2011, when the threats facing Israel began to come into stark relief. The Palestinians were refusing to negotiate with Israel, even indirectly, and consistently rebuffed Obama's private entreaties to return to the table. The International Atomic Energy Agency declared Iran's nuclear scientists were engaged in work that cannot be related to "anything other than a nuclear explosive." And Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak worried that Tehran was approaching a "zone of immunity" in pursuit of nuclear weapons capability.
After nearly 36 months of public disagreements with Israel, Obama stepped to the podium at the U.N. General Assembly and turned a symbolic page, delivering an address candid in its appraisal of Palestinian failure and generous in its appreciation for Israel's security needs -- and its consistent efforts in pursuit of peace.
"Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map," the president said. "The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine."
It appeared that reality, experience, and the uncooperative nature of Israel's adversaries and enemies had trumped the White House and its allies' "confrontation" theory. To many in the mainstream pro-Israel community, this was a welcome change in the administration's tone and, in some cases, its policy.
"Confrontation" cheerleaders like J Street, whose executive director recently took to the Washington Post to legitimize an anti-Semitic canard, have become irrelevant in the public debate and in Congress. They lied about their ties to funder George Soros and other anti-Israel figures. They took embarrassing positions -- like support for the anti-Israel Goldstone Report, a libel that even its author later denounced. They suggested that the United States should side with the rest of the world in ganging up on Israel in the United Nations.
These ideas are deeply in contrast with the broad spectrum of the mainstream pro-Israel community and have rightly been rejected by the Obama administration. And now, over these groups' objections, the White House has moved away from the failed and counterproductive policy of public feuding with Israel.
As the Iranian nuclear challenge comes to a head, and the Arab Spring poses serious challenges to American interests in the region and to the progressive values that the United States and Israel embody, America's need for a relationship rooted in trust with Israel seems to have trumped the tension of the past few years, at least for now.
Trust matters. Friends can disagree without losing that trust. But it cannot survive diplomatic campaigns waged in public or in the press. That's a lesson that the White House, at long last, seems to have learned.