June 4, 2009 / 2:08 PM / 9 years ago

Israel praises Obama, says its security paramount

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JERUSALEM, June 4 (Reuters) - The Israeli government responded to U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to Muslims on Thursday by saying it shared his hopes for Middle East peace but Israel's security interests remained paramount.

"We share President Obama's hope that the American effort heralds the opening of a new era that will bring an end to the conflict and to general Arab recognition of Israel as the nation of the Jewish people that lives in security and peace in the Middle East," an official statement said.

"Israel is committed to peace and will do all it can to expand the circle of peace while considering its national interests, first and foremost being security," it said after Obama's address in Cairo.

The statement made no mention of Jewish settlements, which Obama said should not be expanded, nor Palestinian statehood.

At odds with Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that construction would continue in existing settlements in the West Bank and he has not publicly endorsed a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu, who heads a right-leaning government, has said Israel's security considerations were key in the pursuit of peace with the Palestinians and that any entity they established must be demilitarised and have limited powers of sovereignty. (Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Adam Entous) (For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to blogs.reuters.com/axismundi)

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