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June 26, 2017

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Israel wins US support on Gaza but differences remain present

WASHINGTON -- As conflict erupted in Gaza last week, Israel's officials and supporters embarked on what proved a successful diplomatic and media campaign to ensure the United States remained right behind them.

Israel's ambassador to Washington Michael Oren became a regular fixture on cable news channels and talk shows. Pro-Israel lobby groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Israel Project bombarded journalists with emails offering footage of Hamas rocket strikes and interviews with ordinary Israelis in the line of fire.

After a year of increasingly public disagreements over how to tackle Iran, relations between the Obama Administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government were perhaps worse than at any time in recent memory.

But the level of U.S. backing for Israel in the last week, both Israel's supporters and independent analysts say, shows both the depth of ties between the two countries and the level of influence Israel's supporters can exert when the country feels threatened.

Few doubt there will be differences ahead, particularly when dealing with Iran when it returns to the top of the agenda. But for now, Israeli officials and supporters simply say they are satisfied with the level of support received over Gaza.

"I think you've seen a very strong response ... standing resolutely with Israel," says Josh Block, chief executive of the Israel Project, a Washington-based pressure group that has long pushed for greater U.S. support and a tougher line against its enemies. "It's a reminder of ... how lasting the special relationship is. This is about more than the personal ties between two leaders."

Widely seen as having tried to nudge this year's U.S. presidential election against Barack Obama and towards Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Netanyahu seems keen to repair relations. On Thursday, he praised Obama for his "unwavering support."

In a CNN/ORC poll conducted over last weekend, 57 percent of Americans said they believed Israel was justified in taking military action compared to 25 percent who opposed it.

But Gaza may be almost the only issue on which the two countries genuinely and popularly agree.

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