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I am a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and her citizens’ right to live in peace and security. Since Israel’s independence in 1948, the United States and Israel have shared a special relationship based on our shared values of personal freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Israel has blossomed from desert sands into a shining example of economic progress and cultural diversity – all while under the threat of attack from hostile neighbors.

These are challenging times for Israel, and it has pained me deeply to hear the unfair and unjust criticism of that nation as she strives to protect her citizens. While Israel faces intense international criticism for exercising its legitimate right to self-defense, its enemies in the form of Hamas or Hezbollah rockets, global anti-Semitism, biased United Nations resolutions, and the danger of a nuclear Iran continue to threaten its safe and secure existence.

I am cautiously optimistic that we can achieve peace in the Middle East. One reason for this optimism is because following the start of peace talks late summer in Washington, D.C. I traveled to Israel and Jordan as part of a three member Congressional Delegation trip –the first such trip to the Middle East following the start of peace negotiations. During this trip I met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, King Abdullah of Jordan and numerous high-level government officials, providing great insight into the challenges ahead and the hope for a lasting peace. I welcome the renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and commend the Obama administration for its outstanding efforts to bring everyone back to the negotiating table. I am pleased that the Obama Administration’s diplomacy efforts, particularly those of Senator Mitchell and Secretary of State Clinton, have led from proximity talks to direct talks, for the first time in more than twenty months. Our goal is that these talks will be successful as direct, bilateral negotiation.

Ultimately, we will not achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians until their leaders sit down together to agree on the road ahead. There will be many difficult issues broached, and while I am under no illusions as to the difficult nature these negotiations will pose, I am pleased that President Abbas has finally accepted Prime Minister Netanyahu’s longstanding offer to move ahead with direct talks. We will be closely watching this important step as these negotiations proceed.

We have a special relationship with the State of Israel, and we must continuously strive to help them continue as a more secure and flourishing democracy. In January 2010, I was honored to lead a group of eight of my Congressional colleagues on a delegation trip to the Middle East. I led this delegation trip so that other Members of Congress who have not yet been to Israel could understand the importance of the Jewish State as well as the threats it faces. I am confident that in the future our steadfast support will strengthen Israel and advance the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
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