Barack Obama will receive one of Israel‘s most prestigious honours during his upcoming visit to the Middle East. On Monday, the office of the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, announced that Obama will be given the presidential medal of distinction in March.
A statement said that the honour recognised Obama’s “unique and significant contribution to strengthening the State of Israel and the security of its citizens”.
Obama’s political opponents have complained constantly that he has attempted to distance the US from its traditional support of Israel. In the lead up to the presidential election last year the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, accused Obama of “repeated efforts” to “throw Israel under the bus”. Obama’s pick for defence secretary has also been criticised, due to comments allegedly made by Chuck Hagel regarding the power of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington.
Obama’s White House has always maintained its support for Israel, but the president has had a tense relationship with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, particularly regarding West Bank settlements and the lack of a peace process with the Palestinians.
Peres and the committee behind the award noted Obama’s overall friendship and backing of the Iron Dome missile defence system. Obama’s visit to Israel will be his first as president.