Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, who was visiting Israel this week, made a speech at the Herzliya Conference on Wednesday.
Barbour noted his visit to the Leviathan natural gas field, located off the coast of Haifa. He called the field “a marvelous feat of engineering, science and technology,” and compared the discovery of Israel’s natural gas reserves as well as its many other discoveries to “a second Israeli declaration of independence.” He noted that “energy self sufficiency is crucial for any country but it has to be a positive prospect for this country.”
Barbour also spoke of the special relationship between the United States and Israel.
“This trip has reminded me that your country and the Israelis who inhabit it are our friends,” said Barbour. “I’m a Christian and I want you to know that there are tens of millions of American Christians who join me in recognizing that Israel and Israelis are our friends as well as our allies and partners.”
He noted that American Christians are “committed to a State of Israel that is secure, democratic, prosperous, and Jewish. Be assured that the overwhelming majority of American Christians are joined at the hip with American Jews in standing by Israel during this hour of turmoil or any other time of crisis. We believe in your nationhood and we believe in your right to secure, defensible borders.”
Barbour, who last visited Israel in 1994, noted that he has seen a tremendous positive change in Israel since his last visit, but also said that “while Israel has been going in the right direction, it’s clear that the situations in your neighboring countries have gone largely in the other direction.”
He called leaders to focus on Iran as a crucial issue. “In the world today the number one threat to peace and stability is Iran, and in order to solve problems you’ve got to first face facts. We should deal with other challenges, but we cannot take our eye off the ball.”
Barbour concluded by saying that “Americans know real peace in the Middle East can only come when the region accepts that Israel is not only here to stay, but is a welcome neighbor and a valued economic partner; when it’s universally agreed that this region can be home to people of all faiths, not just one faith.”
Barbour’s name has been mentioned as a possible Republican Party candidate in the 2012 presidential elections. His visit to Israel was sponsored by the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC).
Gibbs: Our Friendship with Israel is Unchanged
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs reiterated the importance of the friendship between the U.S. and Israel during his daily press briefing.
When asked whether the United States would come to Israel’s assistance if it is threatened by any of the new governments forming in the Middle East, Gibbs replied: “Regardless of the situation facing any government in the region, our friendship, our partnership and our alliance with Israel is unchanged.”
Gibbs also addressed comments made Tuesday by British Foreign Minister William Hague, who said that the U.S. administration must take “a bold step” in the peace process in the Middle East.
“I think the President has, and this administration have been, from day one, actively involved in seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” said Gibbs and emphasized that “Only through active engagement and involvement can that happen. We have and we will continue to do that. But just like in this instance, we cannot construct or force on those two entities something that they’re unwilling to take steps to do themselves.”