‘Tension, I Think, is Gone,’ Elie Wiesel Says of U.S. and Israel

May 4, 2010 2:07pm

From Sunlen Miller

Following a private lunch with President Obama, Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel said he believes tensions are gone between the United States and Israel.

“There were moments of tension, but tension I think is gone,” Wiesel said from the White House driveway, “Which is good. And relations between Israel and the United States have a history. And that history has always been one of understanding and productive and they are now I think good.”

Since Vice President Biden's visit to the region in March was overshadowed by Israel’s announcement for new settlements in the occupied territory of East Jerusalem, relations have seemed strained.  And President Obama’s private meeting with Israeli rime Minister Netanyahu later than month did little to quell the tension.

During his lunch today with Mr. Obama in the Private Dining Room of the White House, Wiesel said they discussed the peace process and the recent settlement construction in Jerusalem but refused to provide specifics of their discussion.

“The president is convinced that the peace process must continue. And we all agree of course. There is no substitute to peace among nations,” Wiesel said. “Each side must understand that there is no absolute justice in the world, nor absolute peace in the world.  One side must understand the others need for assurance for respect.”

The president is to meet with separately with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Egyptian President Mubarak and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority later this month.

Wiesel joked that his hour-long lunch was a “good kosher meal,” between two friends.

President Obama and Mr. Wiesel last summer visited the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, of which Wiesel is a survivor. The president's great uncle helped liberate one of the satellite camps. 

-Sunlen Miller

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