By Meghashyam Mali - 02/18/13 07:09 PM EST
President Obama will be awarded the Israeli Presidential Medal of Distinction during his visit to Israel next month, according to a report in the Times of Israel.
Obama will be the first sitting U.S. president to receive the honor, which was announced by Israeli President Shimon Peres’s office on Monday.
“Barack Obama is a true friend of the State of Israel, and has been since the beginning of his public life,” said Peres in a statement announcing the decision.
The statement went on to praise Obama as a “symbol of democratic values” who “exemplifies the spirit of equality of opportunity in American society.”
The award also follows Obama’s honoring of Peres last year, when the Israeli leader was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony.
Obama is slated to receive the award at a dinner at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, during his first visit to Israel as president.
Obama previously came under criticism for not visiting Israel during his first term and has had a rocky relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran sanctions and the administration's efforts to jump start the middle East peace process.