JERUSALEM — Vice President Dick Cheney said Saturday the United States has an "enduring and unshakable" commitment to Israel's security and its right to defend itself against those bent on destroying the Jewish state.
At the start of a weekend of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Cheney also said the Bush administration wants to see a "new beginning" for the Palestinian people and is committed to pursuing a Mideast peace deal.
Cheney's visit is part of the U.S. strategy to keep the pressure on the two sides, despite recent bloodshed, to agree on a framework for peace before President Bush leaves office in January.
"America's commitment to Israel's security is enduring and unshakable, as is our commitment to Israel's right to defend itself always against terrorism, rocket attacks and other threats from forces dedicated to Israel's destruction," Cheney told reporters before an evening meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Cheney mentioned parts of the Middle East where the United States says efforts are under way to foment violence and undermine stability in the region.
"As we continue to work to peace, 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 that are working to derail the hopes of the world," Cheney said.
Olmert said Israel, too, is worried about Iran and is "anxious to carry on" negotiations with the Palestinians. His government is watching "the behavior of Syria and the Hezbollah" and shares concerns with the United States about attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians.
Cheney planned to attend an Easter service today in Jerusalem, then go to Ramallah in the West Bank for talks with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.