Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday saying the bonds between Israel and America are strong.
“The Americans consistently and constantly backup Israel’s security needs,” Barak said before the meeting.
“We see eye to eye on many issues, on some topics we have certain differences, but these differences are put into perspective in view of the enormous importance of the US in the region, as well as the unique status and sensitiveness of Israel in the region,” he added.
Earlier in the day Clinton met with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Monday, stressing the need for cooperation in tumultuous times.
“I always benefit from your advice,” Clinton told her host during their meeting at the President’s Residence. “This is a time of uncertainty, but also opportunity. It is at times like this that friends such as us need to think together, to act together. We have a calling to be wise, creative, and brave, and no one understands that better than President Shimon Peres.”
Peres responded by describing Clinton as the “wind of freedom blowing through the world” and thanked her for her efforts in mediating negotiations with the Palestinians in which the US, he said, plays a critical role. The president also warned against losing sight of peace with the Palestinians as attention is focused on Iran.
Peres distiguished between the Iranian regime — heading toward nuclear arms and terror and posing a threat to Jews and Arabs as well as to Europe — and the Iranian people.
“There is a global understanding that Iran must be stopped from endangering the lives of others,” Peres said.
He also voiced support for the Obama administration’s pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear activities — which has sometimes been a point of contention between a cautious US, keen to give negotiations and sanctions time to work, and an Israeli government that has threatened military action.
Peres described the civil war ravaging Syria as a primarily humanitarian, not political, problem.
“It has gone beyond what can be accepted by humanity, regardless of whether you are Christian, Jew, or Arab. It is without precedence. Syria is a member of the Arab League and a member of the United Nations. We need to stop this tragedy as soon as possible. As an Israeli, I want to see Syrian children not living in fear and not being killed by their dictators.”
Peres also spoke of the importance of maintaining Israel’s three-decade peace with Egypt.
The president reportedly also discussed with Clinton the matter of releasing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, though neither addressed the topic in their statements.
Clinton landed in Israel early Monday morning for a two-day visit following a trip to Egypt. She was accompanied by US Middle East envoy David Hale and Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who represents Washington at the talks between world powers and Iran.
Clinton is set to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later in the day. She will also meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at her hotel in Jerusalem. This is Clinton’s fourth visit to Israel since taking office.
During her meeting with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, protesters called on the US to free Pollard.
Clinton spent the past two days visiting Cairo and meeting with recently elected President Mohammed Morsi and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. Clinton asked Morsi to safeguard the rights of women and minorities in Egypt and uphold the peace treaty with Israel, and asked Tantawi to work with the president to advance Egyptian democracy.
White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon visited Israel on Saturday and Sunday for consultations with his Israeli counterpart Yaakov Amidror and for meetings with Netanyahu and Barak.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that in the meetings, Donilon “reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”
Maariv reported Monday that US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is expected to arrive in Israel later this month.