Cheney in Jerusalem

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney indicated in a Saturday night press conference with Israeli PM Ehud Olmert that Israel (and Israel alone) is affected by problems of terrorism and a lack of security.

Cheney seemed oblivious to the lack of freedom that Israel’s continued belligerent military occupation imposes on the Palestinians.

In his remarks to journalists after the meeting, Cheney indicated that only Israel might be facing “wrenching national sacrifices on behalf of peace”, while both Israelis and Palestinians would have to make “tough decisions and painful concessions” to reach an agreement.

The U.S. would not “dictate the outcome”, Cheney said, but will “help in the negotiations, and provide all the support and encouragement we can”.

He said that the U.S. wanted to see “a resolution to the conflict”, which would bring “an end to the terrorism that has caused so much grief to Israelis, and a new beginning for the Palestinian people”.

Much speculation has been written about why Cheney was making this trip.  In his remarks after meeting Olmert, Cheney indicated that the invitation had come from Olmert: “I want to thank him for the kind invitation that he extended to me and to my wife Lynne to visit Israel again. I’ve been gone too long – it’s now been five years since I was last here”.

For his part, Olmert indicated that he saw threats to Israel both from the north (Hizballah, Iran and Syria), and from the south (Gaza), and said he would welcome Cheney’s “advice and observations”.

Here are some fuller excerpts.

Olmert:

“There are many items on the common agenda of America and the State of Israel. We are both very concerned about Iran; we are anxious to carry on the peace negotiations with the Palestinians; we are watching very carefully the northern front, the behavior of Syria and the Hizbullah; and naturally, I know how concerned America is with the continued terrorist attacks against Israel coming from Gaza against innocent civilians in the south part of the State of Israel. All these matters will be discussed while you are visiting here, and we will always be happy to hear your advice and your observations about these very important issues which are on top of the agenda of the State of Israel and this part of the world”.

Cheney: “I’m especially pleased to be here as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel’s emergence as a modern nation-state. The State of Israel’s rise out of the ashes of World War II is one of history’s great miracles.  So too is the fact that Israel has survived these six decades, despite often violent assaults against its very existence … America’s commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and unshakable, as is our commitment to Israel’s right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel’s destruction. The United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security. As successful democracies, the U.S. and Israel have a basic confidence in the power of freedom to lift up whole societies and to lay the foundation for peace. We will defend ourselves and protect our people, but as President Bush said here in January, we will do more than defend ourselves; we will seek lasting peace.

“History has clearly shown that when encountered by Arab partners like Anwar Sadat and the late King Hussein of Jordan, who accepted Israel’s permanence, and are willing and capable of delivering on their commitments, Israelis are prepared to make wrenching national sacrifices on behalf of peace.  I have no doubt this is equally the case with Palestinians. On this journey, I am reiterating the President’s commitment of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security …

“Reaching the necessary agreement will require tough decisions and painful concessions by both sides, but America is committed to moving the process forward, and to that end I will meet with President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. They too can be certain of America’s goodwill in this process.  It is not America’s role to dictate the outcome, but we will help in the negotiations, and provide all the support and encouragement we can.  We care deeply about these issues.  We want to see a resolution to the conflict; an end to the terrorism that has caused so much grief to Israelis; and a new beginning for the Palestinian people”.

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