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Cheney vows 'unshakable' commitment to Israel

  • Story Highlights
  • The vice president kicks off a weekend of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders
  • Cheney says the U.S. is committed to Israel's right to defend itself
  • He plans to attend an Easter service Sunday in Jerusalem
  • A delegation of GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives is also in Israel
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney arrived Saturday night in Israel, where he pledged America's "enduring and unshakable" commitment to the security of the Jewish state as it approaches its 60th anniversary.

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Vice President Dick Cheney, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reaffirmed their alliance Saturday.

Cheney met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to kick off a weekend of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

"Our two countries have been more than just strong allies. We've been friends, special friends," Cheney said at a news conference with Olmert.

"Both our nations share the ideals of liberty, equality, human dignity and representative government."

"Both our nations have stood firm against forces of terror and intimidation. ... We are natural allies," Cheney added.

He reaffirmed that the United States was committed to Israel's "right to defend itself against terrorism and rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel's destruction."

In turn, Olmert called Cheney "a very good supporter and friend of the state of Israel." Video Watch Cheney discuss the U.S.-Israel relationship »

The Israeli prime minister said the two leaders would discuss Iran and peace negotiations with the Palestinians as well as Syria and Hezbollah.

"We will always be happy to hear your advice and your observations about these very important issues, which are on the top of the agenda of the state of Israel," Olmert told Cheney.

Cheney, who spent the past two days in Saudi Arabia, planned to attend an Easter service Sunday in Jerusalem before heading to Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Cheney's visit comes on the heels of a similar trip by President Bush, who pushed renewed Mideast peace talks that he hoped would achieve a resolution before his final year in office ends.

Cheney reiterated Bush's goals, saying Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad "too can be certain of America's goodwill in this process."

"It's not America's role to dictate the outcome, but we will help with the negotiations and provide all the support and encouragement we can," Cheney said. "We want to see a resolution to the conflict and an end to the terrorism that has caused so much grief for the Israelis."

Southern Israeli towns have faced a near-daily stream of rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza for months. In response, Israeli troops launched a five-day push into Gaza this month that left at least 110 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers dead.

And earlier this month, a man armed with an automatic weapon and a handgun slipped into a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem and killed eight students.

"We must not and will not ignore the darkening shadows of the situations in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Syria and in Iran and the forces there working to derail the hopes of the world," Cheney said.

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A delegation of Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, also arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday.

"This congressional visit will give us the opportunity to discuss important issues of mutual concern between our two countries, the peace process and regional security, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon," Boehner said in a statement. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Ehud OlmertDick CheneyMiddle East ConflictMahmoud Abbas

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