Israeli president highlights importance of relations with U.S.

10:16, March 17, 2010      

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Israel cannot afford to lose the traditional friendship with the United State, said President Shimon Peres on Tuesday, as a visible relationship crisis is brewing between the two allies.

While Israel must make supreme efforts to enhance its own self- defense abilities, "we must develop friendships with other nations, especially with the United States, to ensure political backing in our hour of need and military support against the dangers that face us," Peres said at a memorial service for late Israeli prime ministers and presidents.

"We cannot afford to unravel the delicate fabric of friendship with the United States," added the mainly ceremonial president at the occasion, which was also attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose administration is seemingly on a collision course with Israel's most important ally due to their gaps on the Israeli- Palestinian peace issues.

Meanwhile, the Israeli political veteran stressed the necessity of achieving peace with Israel's neighbors and called upon the government to make bold decisions for what he called "the vision laid by the Jewish prophets" and "the deepest desire of our previous leaders."

"Peace is not the tactic of a past era. Rather, it is the strategy of generations after generations in the history of our people. Our leaders today, like those before them, are demanded anew to stand up and decide to lead our people to the place we all desire -- a peace agreement, regardless of the obstacles on their path," said Peres.

The revered leader made the remarks as Israeli-U.S. ties have notably strained since an Israeli Interior Ministry committee announced its approval for a building project in a Jewish neighborhood in disputed East Jerusalem, which embarrassed the United States, whose vice president Joe Biden was then in Israel for peace-making efforts, and posed a fatal danger to the newly- renewed indirect talks with the Palestinians, the only tangible progress the United States had made after a year of intense mediation between the two Mideast foes.

The Palestinians have vowed not to enter the parley until the Israeli government rescinds the project. Yet despite U.S. pressure, the Netanyahu administration has so far signalled no intention to cancel the plan.

Israel's top diplomat in Washington, Ambassador Michael Oren, was quoted by local media as saying over the weekend that ties between Israel and the United States has hit a 35-year low despite Netanyahu's attempt to put on a sense of "business as usual." The two allies experienced an icy period in their relationship in 1975 when the United States pressured Israel to redeploy its forces in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

Source: Xinhua
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