This week, Israel -- America's closest ally in the Middle East -- commemorated its 62nd anniversary of Independence Day, Yom Ha'atzmaut -- one day after its Memorial Day, Yom Hazikaron, and one week after Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah.
While Independence Day is about celebration for the people of Israel, this year's Memorial Day was marked by somber ceremonies and national grief over the loss of their soldiers. These intensely personal losses in such a small country underscore the continuing threats faced by Israelis, the scale of their efforts and the importance of a Jewish homeland.
Last week in Baltimore I viewed a movie marking the 50th anniversary of Adolf Eichmann's capture and trial. Eichmann was a premier architect of the Holocaust. Rather than dealing with such a war criminal with vengeance, Israel prosecuted Eichmann by following the rule of law and his trial was a model of transparency and justice. This display of our shared values of law, justice, and fairness help to illustrate why the United States and Israel have continued to build upon our "special relationship" for six decades.
Today, the United States, Israel and the entire world face a growing threat of a nuclear Iran. If Iran acquires this capability, it would be an unequivocal "game changer" in the Middle East. A nuclear Iran cannot be allowed to become a reality. We therefore must do all in our power to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities. One of our first steps should be immediate enactment of powerful and effective economic sanctions against Iran ��� and the foreign companies that do business with this rogue nation.
While we work to minimize the key threats to Israel's security, we must also focus on opportunities for peace in the Middle East. Israel has always been prepared to pursue those opportunities and make peace with its neighbors. Over the past six decades, despite diplomatic gestures, multiple Arab countries have repeatedly attacked Israel. We should not forget that it was the Palestinian's leaders who walked away from the negotiation table at Camp David in 2000, on the eve of what would have been a historic breakthrough for peace.
Today, it is Israel who continues to acknowledge the necessary framework for any peace agreement --a two state solution. While Israel has shown willingness for direct negotiations, the Palestinians continue to be an unreliable partner in moving forward towards peace. How can Israel make peace with any partner whose so-called "moderate" Fatah leaders are not willing to meet directly with Israelis leaders and whose Parliament is controlled by Hamas, an organization still sworn to the destruction of Israel?
I am proud to have joined with 75 of my colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that included a reaffirmation of Israel's willingness for direct negotiations, as well as a reminder that not only do the United States and Israel share common values, but also common interests. Top among these interests is restarting the peace process and preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear state.
This is precisely why the role of the United States in this process must be one of an honest broker. President Obama must not place wrongful or unreasonable pressure on Israel -- or worse -- to put forward a proposal without Israel's consent.
Since Israel's founding 62 years ago, every American administration has worked to strengthen the bonds between the United States and Israel. This has been vital for Israel because that nation is under constant threat of military and terrorist attacks, economic boycotts and diplomatic hostility -- often merely due to the fact of its very existence.
At this critical moment, when Iran is moving forward with its nuclear program and simultaneously strengthening Hezbollah's capacity to attack Israel, it is imperative that the Obama Administration say in clear and unambiguous language that we stand with the people of Israel and will do all in our power to protect our shared values and national bonds.