Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, today I wish to express my congratulations to Israel on the 65th anniversary of its independence.
Today, America's closest ally in the Middle East, Israel, commemorates its 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 a celebration for the people of Israel, this Memorial Day was marked by somber ceremonies and national grief over the loss of their soldiers. Nationwide sirens and moments of silence emphasize the sacrifices Israelis have made to protect their thriving, free and democratic state. 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. And Yom HaShoah reminds Israelis of the terrible devastation of the Holocaust that happened to the Jewish people in a time before they could celebrate the existence of the modern State of Israel.
As we celebrate Israel's Independence Day, we must continue to reduce the key threats to Israel's security. We must 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 Palestinian, not Israeli, 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 toward peace. It is vitally important to stress the importance of the Palestinian Authority's close security cooperation with Israel. If peace is to be possible, the Palestinian Authority also needs to confront the recent surge in violence in the West Bank, cease all anti-Israel incitement and renounce Hamas until it unequivocally meets the three Quartet requirements.
I am proud to have joined with 78 of my colleagues in reminding President Obama in a letter on the eve of his visit to Israel that the U.S. and Israel share common values and interests, and that Israel stands ready for peace. 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 make clear that the pathway for peace is through unconditional direct negotiations between both the Israelis and Palestinians and that the United States vigorously opposes any Palestinian efforts to circumvent direct negotiations. I commend President Obama for pursuing peace during his recent trip to the Middle East, and for working on policy solutions to address the urgent and important threats facing Israel and the United States today.
Since Israel's founding 65 years ago, every American administration has worked to strengthen the bonds between our two nations. This support has been vital for Israel, as the nation is under the 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.
As Israel celebrates its 65th anniversary, let us all proclaim that the U.S. continues to value its unbreakable alliance with our closest ally in the Middle East.