US President Barack Obama wished Israel a happy Independence Day on Tuesday, as the country celebrated 66 years since its establishment, praising it as “a diverse and vibrant democracy” and a “start-up nation that celebrates entrepreneurship and innovation.”
“Generations of Jews dreamed of the day when the Jewish people would have their own state in their historic homeland, and 66 years ago today that dream came true,” said Obama in a written statement released by the White House Tuesday.
Reiterating his support for the two-state solution despite the failed peace efforts led by Secretary of State John Kerry during this most recent round, the president said the US would “continue to work with Israel to support a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict, one that ensures that the Israelis will live alongside their neighbors in peace and with security.”
Obama also reaffirmed the US’s support for Israel and its commitment to bilateral ties.
“The United States was the first nation to recognize the government of Israel in 1948, and today we are still the first to come to Israel’s defense, said the president. “The enduring relationship between our two nations, based on shared democratic values and our unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, has never been stronger.”
After nine months of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel last month suspended further negotiations over the unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas reached two weeks ago.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in US television interviews that the Israeli government “will be there, I’ll be there,” if there was a genuine partner for peace. But the unity pact showed that Israel had no such partner at present.
Last week, US officials directly involved in the failed peace process gave a leading Israeli columnist a withering assessment of Netanyahu’s handling of the negotiations, indicated that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has completely given up on the prospect of a negotiated solution, and warned Israel that the Palestinians will achieve statehood come what may — either via international organizations or through violence
Speaking on condition of anonymity to Nahum Barnea, a prominent columnist from Israel’s best-selling daily Yedioth Aharonoth, the officials highlighted Netanyahu’s ongoing settlement construction as the issue “largely to blame” for the failure of Secretary of State John Kerry’s July 2013-April 2014 effort to broker a permanent peace accord.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.