Portman tours Iron Dome, discusses Israel’s security with Netanyahu and Barak
June 6, 2012 1 Comment
By Lauren Appelbaum, Political Director
Washington, June 6 – Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) returned to the United States Monday from an oversees trip to Israel, Jordan, Abu Dhabi and Afghanistan.
Portman – a vice presidential hopeful – met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
“My conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu strengthened my belief that we need to remain vigilant in our support of our critical ally,” Portman said in a statement from Israel on Thursday. “We discussed the threat that Iran poses to Israel and the United States, and ways our two nations can work together to enhance our mutual security. As the crisis in Syria grows and the humanitarian tragedy becomes more clear, I appreciated Prime Minister Netanyahu’s perspective on the changes and volatility in the region.”
The senator and prime minister also discussed the Israeli economy, which grew 4.8 percent in 2011. ”It was instructive to learn how the Israeli government and the private sector are working hard to develop newly discovered natural gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, as we are doing in Ohio with shale oil and gas,” Portman said.
During his time in southern Israel, Portman toured the Iron Dome battery. In the last decade, Israelis in the north and south have suffered bombardment by terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas. In response, the Iron Dome system was developed in 2007 to defend against short-range rocket and artillery attacks. It integrates vertically launched interceptor missiles with a mobile control center as well as an advanced radar component.
“The Iron Dome system is a proven way for Israel to defend its people from hostile threats,” Portman said in a statement from Israel. “This cooperative effort between our two governments will also help enhance U.S. missile defense capabilities. It was encouraging to see firsthand how this innovative technology is protecting lives and significantly diminishing the effectiveness of a tool terrorists use to inflict harm and escalate violence.”
Portman discussed the Iron Dome with Barak as part of a conversation about the United State’s long-term security commitment to Israel and emerging threats within the region.
“Defense Minister Barak and I discussed the many security issues facing Israel. We spoke about the threat that Iran poses to Israel and the United States, and the need to keep up international pressure,” Portman said in a statement following the meeting. “U.S.-Israeli security cooperation is one of our most valued and important arrangements, and given the volatility in the region, one of our most significant. I look forward to continuing that relationship through projects like the Iron Dome.”
Also during his meeting with Barak, Portman pitched the unique capabilities of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima, Ohio.
“When it comes to manufacturing combat vehicles, the skills and expertise at Lima are unparalleled anywhere in the world,” Portman said in a statement. “The Israelis are getting a sense of that as the first Namer components are starting production. I had a very good discussion with Minister Barak about building on this initial work to develop a deeper relationship. We agreed to continue looking at ways we can further leverage the capabilities at Lima to meet their vehicle production needs.”
Potential candidates for Mitt Romney’s running mate are shoring up their various credentials. This trip – his first to the Middle East and second to Afghanistan since being elected to the Senate in 2010 – helped Portman with his foreign policy credentials. Portman last traveled to Israel in January 2010 as a private citizen.