United States Vice President Dick Cheney is in Israel, the latest stop on a Middle East tour. As Robert Berger reports from the VOA bureau in Jerusalem, he hopes to advance the peace process.

Vice President Dick Cheney went right into a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The Vice President began with a message of reassurance.

"The United States will never pressure Israel to take steps that threaten its security," he said.

Cheney said the U.S. backs Israel's right to defend itself against Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.

But he said America would also work for peace between Israel and the moderate Palestinian government in the West Bank.

"On this journey, I am reiterating the President's commitment to his vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security."

President Bush's goal is to reach a peace agreement before he leaves office in January. "Reaching the necessary agreement will require tough decisions and painful concessions by both sides, but America is committed to moving the process forward," he said.

In response, Prime Minister Olmert said Israel would do its part for peace. "We are anxious to carry on the peace negotiations with the Palestinians," he said.

But he warned of threats from radical forces in the region. "We are watching very carefully the northern front, the behavior of Syria and the Hizbollah and naturally I know how much concerned America is with the continued terrorist attacks against Israel coming from Gaza against innocent civilians," he said.

On Sunday, Cheney will attend an Easter service in Jerusalem, and then travel to the West Bank for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.