For Obama and Netanyahu: 2009, a Year of Regional Hopes & Challenges

May 22, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Integration, Peace Process, Security | Leave a comment

Any day when the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel work together is a great day, an example of the strong working relationship our two great countries share.  The recent meeting was the second for President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, the two having previously met as candidates for their respective offices.  That meeting was a great success and we in Israel look forward to working with President Obama, as our new government comes together with the new American administration.

While this meeting was important, we know that Israel and the United States have a friendship that’s bigger than any single leader or government interest.  Our two countries are bonded in every home and on every street corner, a relationship built on the shared grassroots values of everyday Americans and Israelis.  The bedrocks of our open societies are our democratic ideals: voting rights, freedom of religion, minority rights, the rule of law, and individual liberty.

Our two countries have a common vision for the future, one that will allow us to create a lasting peace.  To that end, Prime Minister Netanyahu has continued our country’s intensive peace negotiations.  His commitment comes in spite of the Palestinians’ current state of division.  The Palestinian leadership is severed in two, each side unwilling to work with the other. Dialog cannot advance unless we can have a unified partner open to peace and dialog.  Yet in the face of these complications, our government has vowed to respect all of Israel’s obligations with the Palestinian people.

There can be no peace, however, while the Iranian specter looms over the region and attempts to taint every effort our countries make.  Iran’s policies and rhetoric have no place in the modern civilized world.  As the Prime Minister recently remarked, “it is inconceivable that, at the beginning of the 21st century, a country has said it is going to eradicate the Jewish state.”

Israel, the United States, and our Arab neighbors agree: Iran and its nuclear ambitions are a threat that we all must face.  Tehran’s Hamas fighters have taken Gaza hostage, its Hezbollah proxies have undermined Lebanese democracy and independence, and its allies in Iraq have waged a bloody war against the Iraqi people and American forces since Saddam fell in 2003.

The meeting in Washington was likely the first of many and we can all expect the President and the Prime Minister to work closely over the coming years. These discussions serve to remind us of our commonalities.  When you look past the headlines we are both merely freedom loving immigrant societies, countries built by the hard work of those seeking a better and peaceful life for their children and grandchildren.

I had the privilege to work along side Prime Minister Netanyahu while he served as Deputy Foreign Minister and as Prime Minister in his first government.  I have experienced first-hand his many close personal relationships with leaders from all walks of American life and I know his deep commitment to strengthen the great alliance between Israel and the United States.  I am confident will face our threats together and accomplish our common goals for peace.

Article originally appeared in the Atlanta Jewish Times on May 22, 2009

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