Mahmoud Abbas is serious about a peace deal with Israel, according to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz).
The Republican presidential candidate made the statement during a meeting Wednesday with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
McCain, who spoke with the Palestinian Authority president by phone Tuesday night but did not meet him in person, was to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and take a helicopter tour of the country with Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the last day of a two-day visit to Israel.
McCain also visited the Western Wall, where he placed a prayer in a crack as onlookers cheered.
McCain voiced sympathy for Israel’s national security concerns in an interview published Wednesday in the Jerusalem Post.
The Arizona senator, who has played down the electoral boon of being a welcome guest in the Jewish state ahead of the November ballot, also made clear he does not think Washington should try to shape Israeli strategy.
“If Hamas/Hezbollah succeeds here, they are going to succeed everywhere, not only in the Middle East but everywhere. Israel isn’t the only enemy,” McCain told the Post.
“They are dedicated to the extinction of everything that the U.S., Israel and the West believe and stand for. So America does have an interest in what happens here far above and beyond our alliance with the State of Israel.”
Though McCain has endorsed the Bush administration’s drive to secure an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord by year’s end, he said Washington should not try to force Jerusalem’s hand on key issues.
“I really think that we should understand that the U.S. and Israel are partners. Israel is not a client of the United States,” he said. “If you are partners, then you don’t dictate what you think the terms of the survival of a nation should be.”