Dan Shapiro and Shimon Peres August 3, 2011 (GPO)
Dan Shapiro and Shimon Peres Photo by GPO
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"We all read the newspapers and I want to take advantage of this opportunity to express my appreciation to President Obama and say in a clear voice - President Obama is a friend of the Jewish people and the state of Israel and there is no doubt in this matter," President Shimon Peres said on Wednesday at a ceremony in which he accepted the credentials of the new U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.

"President Obama represents the tradition of deep friendship between Israel and the United States, not only in words but in actions and he has emphasized that Israel's security is a top priority of the American government - and he has acted thusly," Peres continued.

In the past, Shapiro has served as a senior adviser to Obama and as the head of the Middle East division of the U.S. National Security Council.

Shapiro said to Peres: "I want to thank you for the warm welcome and as always your words are full of wisdom and meaning and we learn from them. The relationship between the U.S. and Israel is the most important and strongest that we have in the world. We have shared interests and values that distinguish us as two democracies. We face the same threats and therefore have built excellent cooperation between the two governments in the field of intelligence. But more than the strategic connection, there is the moral connection between the two peoples."

After the ceremony, Peres and Shapiro held discussions on diplomatic matters, including the Palestinian effort to attain recognition of statehood at the United Nations in September.

Peres said that such a declaration would be a mistake.

"An empty statement will produce only an illusion, cause damages to both sides and won't provide an answer to the basic issues standing before us, including terrorism, weapons smuggling and Iran's attempts to develop a nuclear bomb."

Peres called for direct negotiations with the Palestinians to bring an end to the conflict.

"A clear majority of both peoples desire peace," he said. "I know that the gaps can be bridged and therefore we cannot give up and we must work diligently to renew the peace process."