Sunday, November 7, 2010

US ambassador to Israel: Midterm results won't affect US-Israel relations

(US Ambassador to Israel James Cunningham said Sunday the results of last week's midterm elections would not affect US policy towards Israel, adding that the US had "moral responsibility" to provide leadership.

Cunningham spoke at a conference at Bar-Ilan University, saying the Tea Party movement is critical of both the Democrats and the Republicans. He added that presidents have lost in midterms in the past, and that in the best case US President Barack Obama will have to work with Congress, which is what Obama has said he will do.

He reiterated the words of Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the need for peace and an agreement with the Palestinians, and the importance of direct negotiation, saying peace was in American interests.

Since he was elected, Cunningham said, Obama has followed a policy of mutual respect with other states. The US would continue to work to strengthen strategic ties, he said, adding there was a bipartisan agreement that the election results would not affect relations with Israel. The US has common values with Israel, and understands Israel's need for security at a time when states are undermining Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state, he said.

Cunningham also said the US would continue to work to prevent a nuclear Iran, maintain Israel's security superiority, and assist in defending Israel against Hezbollah and Hamas rockets.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon spoke after Cunningham, and noted that bipartisan support of Israel is one of the most important aspects of US-Israel relations.

"The (midterm) elections will not affect the relations between the two states or the US involvement in the region," Ayalon said. "Interests have not changed – we will continue to work towards common strategic goals. We value the president's leadership and will continue to work with him in partnership."
"Obama's determination to negotiate is important because unilateral steps are not desirable," Ayalon said. "I am concerned by the Palestinian tactic of 'all or nothing;' it's a problematic issue."

He promised the Americans that "we would continue to work together, and there are other challenges apart from the negotiations." No country except the US has the moral and ideological power to lead the world, he said. "Even if attention is drawn to internal issues, the US knows how to differentiate between internal and foreign affairs."