NEW YORK (Oct. 16)
Thomas Pickering, the United States Ambassador to Israel, declared Wednesday night that Israeli-American relationships have “never been better.”
Addressing more than 500 people attending the annual dinner of the American Friends of Haifa University at the Pierre Hotel here, the American envoy said that “despite some tough tests over the past year, it’s (American-Israeli relations) as good as it has ever been. Some tell me it’s better than it’s ever been. We have a thriving security relationship, and we are partners in strategic cooperation. We are working together on a peace process. Israel’s economy is recovering.”
Pickering noted, however, that there are also “challenges” in American-Israeli relations and “we need to continue to work together to deal with problems that arise between us.”
One of the challenges, the Ambassador said, is the need for Israel to become independent economically and to reduce its dependence on U.S. economic assistance. “Obviously, I am not suggesting that Israel’s future security needs in the absence of peace can be met without U.S. help. But on the economic side, there should be ways to reduce the dependence and thus increase the harmony and mutual respect which both nations feel for each other,” he said.
CITES REMARKABLE ECONOMIC PERFORMANCE
Pickering praised the “remarkable economic performance of Israel over the last fifteen months.” But now, he observed, Israel should take the next step “which is no less crucial. This is the challenge of economic growth.”
Noting that U.S. military assistance to Israel is “now running at the rate of $1.8 billion each year,” the Ambassador underscored American commitment to Israel’s survival and security.
“Israel still faces serious military threats, despite the steady progress we have been making toward peace. I reaffirm to you tonight that the United States remains fully committed to ensuring that Israel retain its qualitative military edge in the region.”
Pickering said that commitment to Israel’s security serves the goal of advancing peace in the Mideast. He added that the cooperation between Israel and America today in the security realm benefits both countries “in many practical ways.”
The envoy disclosed that in a number of instances, Israel helped the U.S. with intelligence information regarding terrorist activities against America. He said, “We have avoided loss of life and great damage to property because of Israel’s help.” He did not elaborate.
OTHER ‘PROBLEM CASES’
Turning to other “problem cases” between Israel and the U.S., Pickering cited the Jonathan Pollard espionage case. He said it was a “painful” experience for both countries, but the case was dealt with “in a cooperative way” by both governments.
“With continued goodwill, cooperation and close consultation I am convinced we can continue to deal with the troublesome remains of the Pollard case. Israel, of course, has continued to commit itself that activities of this kind in and against the United States are absolutely ruled out by our friendship,” Pickering said.
The Haifa University annual dinner honored, in addition to Pickering, Eugene Grant, a communal leader and a prominent New York realtor and philanthropist. Grant has served as director of the American Friends of Haifa University and is a trustee of Haifa University.
Pickering was awarded a special Scroll of Merit presented by Ephraim Evron, Haifa University president and former Israeli Ambassador to Washington.