(HAARETZ.COM) The relationship between Israel and the U.S. “will only be strengthened in the months and years to come,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a special statement for Israel’s 62nd Independence Day.
“Minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence, realizing the dream of a state for the Jewish people in their historic homeland, the United States became the first country to recognize Israel,” Obama said.
“To this day, we continue to share a strong, unbreakable bond of friendship between our two nations, anchored by the United States’ enduring commitment to Israel’s security,” Obama continued.
Obama also said his administration would continue to work toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I look forward to continuing our efforts with Israel to achieve comprehensive peace and security in the region, including a two-state solution, and to working together to counter the forces that threaten Israel, the United States, and the world,” he said.
“On this day, we once again honor the extraordinary achievements of the people of Israel, and their deep and abiding friendship with the American people. I offer my best wishes to President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the people of Israel as they celebrate this happy occasion.”
On Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States will continue to stand by Israel through its many challenges, adding that Washington was determined to reach a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement.
In a video message posted on the State Department website in honor of Israel’s independence day, Clinton said, in a possible reference to remaining tensions over Iran’s contentious nuclear program, that while “Israel today is confronting some of the greatest challenges in its history,” its “promise and potential have never been greater.”
“The United States will continue to stand with you, sharing your risks and helping shoulder your burdens, as we face the future together,” the U.S. secretary of State added.
Clinton also stressed what she called her “deep personal commitment to Israel,” one she claimed to have shared with President Obama, adding that Washington would “not waver in protecting Israel’s security and promoting Israel’s future.”
“That is why pursuing peace and recognized borders for Israel is one of our top priorities,” Clinton said, adding that she believed it was “possible – indeed necessary – to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East that provides Israelis, Palestinians, and all the people of the region security, prosperity, and the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.”
Meanwhile, Washington celebrated Israel’s Independence Day early, at a ceremony that was to be held at the embassy itself and was moved to a distant location near the Capitol. The event, held last Thursday, was replete with kebabs and hummus.
Among the guests were Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s national security adviser Uzi Arad and envoy Michael Oren, along with other Israeli diplomats and academics, and American officials including Obama adviser David Axelrod and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, National Security Council member Dan Shapiro and AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg.