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The Motives Beneath The 'Bedrock' To Come, In U.S.-Israeli Relations


It's time once again for our regular segment Words You'll Hear. That's where we try to understand stories we'll be hearing more about in the coming days by parsing some of the words associated with those stories. Today, our word is bedrock. We expect that word to come up tomorrow when President Obama meets at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Joining us here to tell us more about this is NPR's own Michele Kelemen. Hi, Michele, thanks for stopping by.


MARTIN: So would you set the stage for me? Why are they meeting tomorrow?

KELEMEN: You know, he's coming here after this very rocky period in relations, when he called the Iran nuclear deal, for instance, a historic mistake. So the White House wants to move forward to reassure the Israelis that as we move ahead with this Iran nuclear deal that the U.S. is going to take it all seriously and that the U.S. has Israel's back. So you're going to hear President Obama - I'm sure quite a lot - talking about that Israel is America's bedrock ally in the Middle East, that the U.S. commitment to Israel's security is deep and enduring and that's a bedrock principle of U.S. foreign policy. And for his part, Netanyahu's going to be speaking to not only the White House, but also to a fairly liberal think tank. He's meeting with Jewish groups from across the U.S. who have gathered here in Washington. And he's going to be trying to make sure that this bedrock support for Israel remains a bipartisan issue in Washington.

MARTIN: Do you expect that some concrete proposals will come out of this meeting? I mean, obviously, military aid is always a concern in this relationship. And is there some proposal likely to come out of this?

KELEMEN: Well, Israel receives more than $3 billion a year in military aid. And Netanyahu is said to be coming to Washington seeking $5 billion a year over the next decade. Before he left, he issued a statement saying he's looking for clarity in America's support for Israel for the next decade. White House officials weren't quite ready to talk numbers yet. And they say that military officials have been having technical talks with the Israelis about the aid package going forward. And there's another buzzword we're going to hear this week and that is making sure that Israel maintains its military edge in the region. Again, that's something that has bipartisan support in Washington, and that's something I think you'll hear from both sides.

MARTIN: This administration has placed a high priority trying to address the Israeli and Palestinian relationship. And of course, you know, this comes at a time when there has been this terrible spike in violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories in the West Bank. And is there any sense that this will be addressed at this meeting, and does the U.S. have anything to offer to address this situation?

KELEMEN: I think the U.S. is really struggling with this issue because it was such a high priority before. Now they've come to the realization that it's not in the cards. There might not even be any kind of peace talks in the last year of the Obama administration. And how do you deal then with all these tensions on the street when there isn't that kind of contact? Netanyahu in his statement before leaving also sort of played down this issue. He said, you know, he'll be talking to Obama about potential progress with the Palestinians, or at least, as he put it, stabilizing the situation with them.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Michele Keleman. Thanks so much for talking with us.

KELEMEN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.

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