richard jones 88.
(photo credit: US State Department)
United States Ambassador Richard Jones said on Tuesday that his country was committed to Israel's security in light of the "serious threat" Iran and Hamas posed to Israel's existence.
"Iran's president [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] openly calls for wiping Israel off the map. Hamas leader Khaled Mashal stubbornly refuses to accept that Israel even has a right to exist," said Jones. He spoke in Jerusalem to gathering of the biennial national convention of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.
"When you add Iran's nuclear ambition to an already unstable mix of regional tensions the serious nature of Israel's security challenge becomes clear," Jones said.
He assured the audience that, "Israel's security and well being are of vital importance to the United States."
Military threats are not the only problem Israel faces, Jones said.
"Even some Western artists and academics afflicted with a peculiar strain of ideological blindness have proposed a cultural boycott of Israel, while saying nothing about those who deny the holocaust," Jones said.
He also acknowledged Israel's struggle to preserve its identity as a Jewish and democratic state while at the same time preserving minority rights.
"Balancing full participation by minorities with the majority's legitimate desire to preserve the original character of the country will not always be easy," Jones said. He added, that he was confident that Israel would reconcile those goals for the benefit of its citizens.
In turning his attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Jones said US President George Bush believed that solving this issue was one of the "greatest objectives" of his presidency.
On Monday, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told The Jerusalem Post that Bush's road map for peace, which Israel and the Palestinian Authority initially signed onto as a method to resolve their differences, had expired
But on Tuesday Jones said that the US remains committed to the Road Map as the best tool by which to move forward toward a two-state solution, even though he did not specially address Sneh's comment.
The Prime Minister's office has also insisted that Israel remains committed to the road map.
In speaking to AACI on Tuesday, Jones said that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to arrive in the region at the end of the week to help push forwards diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to the State Department. Rice will be in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Sharm El Sheik, Aman, Kuwait City and Riyadh during her weeklong trip.
Jones said that she along with the "United States will pursue diplomatic efforts to help [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas strengthen and reform the Palestinian Authority."
He added that that the US would also "encourage engagement by regional leaders in support of peace."