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      Peres: Be Grateful for Our Friendship with the United States

      "We must not underestimate our relationship with the Americans," says President Peres following diplomatic row.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 1/16/2014, 3:16 AM

      President Shimon Peres at the 50th anniversary of the National Defense College
      President Shimon Peres at the 50th anniversary of the National Defense College
      Flash 90

      In the wake of the latest row between the United States and Israel over remarks by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, President Shimon Peres on Wednesday said that Israel should be grateful for its close relationship with America.

      “Israel and the United States have much more than a dialogue. The U.S. wants to allow us and the Palestinians to live in peace,” said Peres in remarks at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the Israel National Defense College.

      "They have no interest other than an interest in real democracy," he added. "They really want to make the world a freer, more democratic place, and they see us as valuable allies. We must not underestimate this, it's not obvious."

      Peres further emphasized that President Barack Obama responded in the affirmative to all of Israel's security demands, including providing funding for anti-missile defense systems, such as the Iron Dome.

      "Obama also vetoed a UN resolution on settlements, even when he himself opposes them and we should be grateful for that,” he noted. “America and Israel are fighting on the same front, we have support from both parties that support us not only military but also practically.”

      "We would not have any power in the UN without the American veto," continued Peres. "Even now when presenting its peace plan, the U.S. is supporting our claim that [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Abbas recognize us as a Jewish state. Conversely, there are things that it is opposed to such as settlements, but all the U.S. presidents have been opposed to them, so we should not be surprised about it. The U.S.-Israel friendship is very important and we should not underestimate it.”

      The latest row between the U.S. and Israel came after Defense Minister Ya'alon harshly criticized the American involvement in the peace talks and particularly Secretary of State John Kerry.

      On Tuesday, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper quoted Ya’alon, in closed conversations, as dismissing the U.S. peace plan and calling Kerry “messianic” and “obsessive.”

      “The only thing that can 'save' us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel peace prize and leave us alone,” he reportedly said.

      Both the State Department and the White House criticized the remarks, and Ya’alon eventually issued an apology, clarifying he had no intention of offending Kerry.

      Kerry downplayed the impact of Ya’alon’s comments on Wednesday, saying he will not allow the criticism to affect peace efforts.

      Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who spoke at the same event as Peres, took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of Israel to defend itself.

      "We are engaging in complex and difficult negotiations," Netanyahu stated. "We stand firmly on our own interests, but any agreement must include two fundamental principles: recognition of a Jewish national state and an end to the conflict [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority]."