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U.S.-Israeli defense relationship never stronger, Gates says

Noting that their military relationship has never been stronger, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today that the United States and Israel should stand together “as we contemplate and work with the extraordinary change that is taking place around the region.”

Before a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Gates said the unprecedented number of citizen uprisings in diverse countries brings with it challenges and opportunities. “The key,” he added, “is to minimize the challenges and maximize the opportunities.”

Peres echoed the secretary’s comments. “We are aware there is a window of change in the Middle East,” he said, “and we, very much like you, stand on the side of … freedom, democracy, security and peace.”

While Israel is concerned about the daily problem of defense, Peres said, “we’re not overlooking this historic confrontation.”

Gates expressed American sympathy “for the families of those who were killed and wounded in the terrorist attack in Jerusalem yesterday, and our deep concern about the rocket attacks coming out of Gaza against the people of Israel.”

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