Full Text Israel Political Brief November 18, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Attack in Jerusalem

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Statement by President Barack Obama on Attack in Jerusalem

Source: WH, 11-18-14

I strongly condemn today’s terrorist attack on worshipers at a synagogue in Jerusalem, which killed four innocent people, including U.S. citizens Aryeh Kupinsky, Cary William Levine, and Mosheh Twersky, and injured several more.  There is and can be no justification for such attacks against innocent civilians.  The thoughts and prayers of the American people are with the victims and families of all those who were killed and injured in this horrific attack and in other recent violence.  At this sensitive moment in Jerusalem, it is all the more important for Israeli and Palestinian leaders and ordinary citizens to work cooperatively together to lower tensions, reject violence, and seek a path forward towards peace.

Full Text Israel Political Brief November 11, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks for The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly warning of a Iran Nuclear Weapons Deal

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks for The Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly

Source: PMO, 11-11-14
יום שלישי י”ח חשון תשע”ה
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Photo by: GPO Click Here to Enlarge Picture
Photo by: GPO

[Transcription]

Greetings to all of you, my friends, all of you who are attending the General Assembly 2014. Greetings from Jerusalem – the eternal and united capital of the Jewish people.

Michael are you speaking or am I speaking?

Thank you, Michael, and thank you all.

I want to thank my friend of many decades, Michael Siegal, for the kind introduction, and I want to thank you, Michael, for the exemplary work you’re doing as Chairman of the Board of the Jewish Federations.

And I also want to acknowledge and salute DeDe Feinberg, Chair of the Executive Committee;

Jerry Silverman, the JFNA President and CEO;

and the hundreds of leaders and professionals who are there tonight, for the terrific job you do to strengthen the Jewish communities of North America and to strengthen support for Israel.

Your communities have stood resolutely by our side as Israel has defended itself time and again against enemies bent on our destruction, including during this past summer in Operation Protective Edge.

You led solidarity missions; you raised money to help those in need; and you held rallies in support for Israel. And as our soldiers defended Israel on the battlefield, you helped defend Israel in another battlefield – in the court of public opinion. And you did that by doing something very simple – you just told the truth. You told the truth about Israel’s just battle against Hamas terrorists.

I want to say two words to you: Thank you. Thank you for standing up for Israel. Thank you for standing up for the truth.

I also want to recognize Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, a true hero of the Jewish people. Natan, like you, works day and night to strengthen the Jewish future.

And finally, I want to recognize Ron Dermer, Israel’s exceptionally talented ambassador in Washington.

Thank you, Ron, for all you are doing to strengthen the bonds between Israel and the United States and between Israelis and Americans – American Jews and American non-Jews.

And by the way, Ron, you can tell Vice President Biden that I know we’re still buddies. We’ll always be buddies.

The Vice President said yesterday that we don’t always agree. That’s true.

But we definitely agree that Israel has no greater friend and ally than the United States, and that the United States has no greater friend and ally than the State of Israel.

I deeply appreciate the unique and special friendship between Israel and the United States of America, as well as the great friendship between Israel and the state of Canada.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s important to have friends like the United States and Canada because, it’s important for any country to have such alliances, but especially for a country like Israel that faces many challenges unlike any other nation on Earth.

But none of these challenges is more important than the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Our goal must not be merely to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons today. We must also prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons tomorrow.

Iran is openly committed to Israel’s destruction. And even as Iran negotiates a nuclear deal with the leading powers in the international community, its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, brazenly calls for Israel’s annihilation. These are not my words, these are his words: Israel’s annihilation.

He just did it again three days ago on his Twitter account. That’s apparently the Iranian regime’s idea of modernity – tweeting about the annihilation of Israel.

But I’m afraid these aren’t mere words. These aren’t mere words; they’re not just statements thrown out in the air, which is harmful enough. The regime in Iran’s wild rhetoric is also backed by murderous action.

Iran arms, trains, finances the Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It has supplied them, and its main terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, with tens of thousands of rockets to fire on Israeli citizens. Iran perpetrates murder and mayhem throughout the Middle East – in Syria, in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen and elsewhere. It has spread a reign of terror across five continents – from Bangkok to Burgas, and even an attempt in Washington, DC.

Iran’s savagery abroad is also matched by its brutality at home. The ayatollah regime executes political opponents, religious and ethnic minorities, gays, feminists and journalists. And executions have increased, not decreased, under the supposedly moderate Rouhani regime.

This is how Iran acts without nuclear weapons; now imagine how Iran will act if a deal is made that leaves it as a threshold nuclear power.

My friends,

It’s obvious that Iran wants to remove the sanctions that have had such a devastating impact on its economy. But it should be equally obvious that Iran is not prepared to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in return.

Unfortunately, instead of holding firm and demanding that Iran dismantle its program, the international community is reportedly, and I hope these reports do not prove to be true, but the international community is reportedly willing to leave Iran’s nuclear program largely intact. They hope to rely on intelligence and inspectors to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

I believe this would be a bad deal and a huge mistake.

We must recognize the limitations of our own intelligence gathering capabilities. Remember – for years, both Israel’s intelligence and US intelligence failed to discover Iran’s secret enrichment facilities at Natanz and Qom. And given that record, there is no reason to believe that our intelligence facilities will be perfect in the future.

As for inspectors, they weren’t able to stop North Korea from getting the bomb. And if the ten year run-around that Iran has given the International Atomic Energy Agency is any indication, inspectors won’t stop Iran from getting the bomb either.

The IAEA itself has reported just last week that Iran continues to conceal the most suspicious aspects of its nuclear program from the international inspectors that are already in Iran.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some people have suggested that Iran can help America solve the problems of the Middle East.

But Iran is not part of the solution.

It’s a huge part of the problem.

The Islamic State of Iran is not a partner of America.

It’s an enemy of America.

And it should be treated as an enemy – by keeping tough sanctions on the regime; by making clear that the international community is determined to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from breaking out or sneaking out to get the bomb.

See, the worst thing that can happen now is for the international community to agree to a deal that leaves Iran as a threshold nuclear power and removes the sanctions.

That would be a disaster of historic proportions. It would embolden all of Iran’s terrorist proxies throughout the region; it would trigger a nuclear arms race between Sunnis and Shi’ites that would endanger the entire planet. And it would pose, needless to say, a grave danger to the State of Israel.

Israel cannot allow a regime committed to its destruction to develop the weapons to achieve that goal.

But the alternative to a bad deal is not war.

It means giving existing sanctions and even stronger sanctions more time to work to achieve the goal of fully dismantling Iran’s military nuclear capabilities.

To remove sanctions before that goal is reached is to remove any hope of a genuine diplomatic solution.

That is why avoiding a bad deal and maintaining strong pressure on Iran should be the policy of all responsible governments. So too, all responsible governments should help President Obama in his effort to degrade and defeat ISIS.

But as I said to the United Nations a few months ago, to defeat ISIS and allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear power would be to win the battle and lose the war.

The greatest threat facing our world is to have the forces of militant Islam get the bomb.

That must never be allowed to happen, for Israel’s sake, for the peace in the Middle East, for the peace and security of the entire world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we work to prevent the ultimate danger of a nuclear-armed Iran, we must also act forcefully to confront Palestinian terrorism and incitement.

In recent weeks, we have seen a dramatic rise in terrorist attacks against Jews across the country, including here in Jerusalem.

These attacks have been accompanied by a systemic campaign of incitement, including libels about Israel trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and even wild allegations that we are planning to destroy Muslim holy sites.

These are false accusations. They’re absolute fabrications. Israel is fully committed to the status quo.

Last week, I spoke to King Abdullah of Jordan, and I reiterated Israel’s commitment to maintain the religious status quo on the Temple Mount.

I will continue to make every effort to restore calm, to restore quiet and security, so that all may enjoy the religious freedom guaranteed by Israeli law.

But I regret to say that the Palestinian Authority, which should also be working to calm tensions, has joined Hamas and other radical Islamists in fanning the flames.

President Abbas himself called on Palestinians to prevent Jews from entering the Temple Mount. He used the words: “by any means possible.”

See, this – the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism, where Jews have visited peacefully for years – President Abbas says we should not set foot there. That’s changing the status quo.

President Abbas publicly praised the Islamic Jihad terrorist who tried to murder Rabbi Yehuda Glick, declaring that the would-be assassin would, and here’s his quote: “would go to heaven as a martyr defending the rights of our people and its holy places.” That’s the end of the quote.

And just today President Abbas accused Jews of “contaminating,” his word – contaminating the Temple Mount.

Once again, this incitement to violence is coupled with revisionist history intended to delegitimize the Jewish people and the Jewish state.

The official Facebook page of Fatah, just turn it on, you’ll see it, you have to Google this to believe this. The official Facebook page of Fatah denies that the Jewish people have any connection to the Temple Mount or that there was ever a Temple Mount at all – a temple on the Temple Mount.

Jerusalem, the ancient City of David, like the Land of Israel, is simply erased by the Palestinians from their history books.

Unfortunately, the international community does not hold the Palestinians responsible for this sort of incitement and denial of history, and I think that’s tragic, because these distortions and this incitement are so corrosive to the effort to reach a genuine peace.

Rather than help advance peace, many in the international community are setting back the cause of peace by convincing Palestinians that they can have a state without making peace with Israel.

Recognizing a Palestinian state without demanding an end to the Palestinian Authority’s pact with Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization is absurd.

Recognizing a Palestinian nation-state without demanding that the Palestinians recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people is unjust.

Recognizing a Palestinian state without demanding an end to incitement in official Palestinian media and schools is reckless.

And recognizing a Palestinian state without demanding robust security arrangements to enable Israel to protect itself and the peace, that is dangerous.

If the issue of Palestinian statehood is brought before the UN Security Council outside the context of a peace agreement with Israel, this should be flatly rejected. If any one-sided anti-Israel resolution is brought before that council, it should be vigorously opposed.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved by exploiting the automatic anti-Israel majorities in the UN bodies. You can pass anything there. But that is not the way to achieve peace.

The only way to peace is through direct negotiations that address all the core issues.

Israel is ready for these negotiations; Israel is ready for peace; I am ready for peace. But it must be a genuine peace, a durable peace, and for that, we must have a Palestinian partner who is committed to forging such a genuine peace – a partner who is prepared to confront terrorism and end incitement; a partner who is prepared to recognize the nation-state of the Jewish people; a partner who is prepared to address Israel’s legitimate security concerns seriously; a partner who wants a Palestinian state not to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it once and for all.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are many countries in the region today who do want to put the conflict behind us. I think that offers hope.

There are leading Sunni Arab states that are re-evaluating their traditional hostility towards Israel. They increasingly understand that the real threat to them doesn’t come from Israel. It comes from militant Sunni radicals like ISIS and from a nuclear-armed Iran.

And I believe that cooperation with these states – that are more ready to work for peace and security with Israel than ever before – I believe that cooperation with them can help open the door to peace with the Palestinians, and I believe this is possible. But for that, we need the international community to stand by Israel, to demand from the Palestinians to stop incitement and to demand from them to go for peace.

My friends,

For 66 years, the Jewish communities of North America have been dedicated partners in building the State of Israel.

You have helped us transform Israel into a global technological powerhouse, a wonder of medicine and science and innovation, a vibrant and dynamic democracy.

You have stood by Israel’s side as we forged historic peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, and as we have worked to advance peace with the Palestinians.

And just as you have stood with Israel, Israel stands with you in confronting anti-Semitism; in strengthening Jewish identity; in working to ensure that the next generation of Jews remains just as committed to our remarkable partnership; and in ensuring that all Jews around the world know that they will always have a home in Israel.

We are one people.

We share one history,

And we have one destiny.

Thank you all.

Thank you for standing by Israel, and good bye from Jerusalem.

Israel Political Brief November 10, 2014: VP Joe Biden at Jewish Federations General Assembly: US will never abandon Israel

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Joe Biden at Jewish Federations General Assembly: US will never abandon Israel

Source: Jerusalem Post, 11-10-14

Vice President Joe Biden spoke at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly on Monday and said that the United States will never abandon Israel….READ MORE

Israel Musings October 29, 2014: US-Israel crisis reactions: Obama official calls Netanyahu coward, chickenshit

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US-Israel crisis reactions: Obama official calls Netanyahu coward, chickenshit

By Bonnie K. Goodman

United States Israel relations have gone downhill fast. At the beginning of the month, President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a friendly meeting at the White House, but in four weeks, the fragile personal relationship has…READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief October 29, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at the Special Knesset Session in Memory of Rehavam Ze’evi — Responding to Obama Official’s Insults, Name Calling — Transcript

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PM Netanyahu’s Speech at the Special Knesset Session in Memory of Rehavam Ze’evi

Source: PMO, 10-29-14

29/10/2014

Photo: Haim Zach, GPO
Translation
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your important and moving words. I believe they reflect the feelings of a great many Israeli citizens. When Israel is pressured to make concessions regarding its security, it is easiest to give in. We receive applause and attend ceremonies on lawns, but later the rockets and tunnels come.

As Prime Minister, I stand firm with regard to Israel’s security. I care about the lives of each and every citizen and each and every soldier. I have been on battlefields many times. I risked my life for this country, and I am not prepared to make concessions that will endanger it. And it must be understood, our supreme interests, first and foremost security and the unity of Jerusalem, are not the top priority of those same anonymous sources that attack us and me personally. I am being attacked only because I am protecting the State of Israel. If I did not protect the State of Israel, if I did not stand up decisively for our national and security interests, they would not attack me. And despite the attacks I face, I will continue to protect our country; I will continue to protect the citizens of Israel.

I would also like to add that I respect and appreciate our deep connection with the United States. Since the establishment of the country, we have had disagreements with the US and we will have disagreements in the future as well. However, they are not at the expense of the close relationship between our peoples and our countries. We have seen time and again, this year as well, that support for the State of Israel is ever increasing among the American public, and this support reached an all-time high. The strategic alliance and the moral covenant between our countries continues and will continue.

Dear Ze’evi family, my colleagues, Members of Knesset,
It is the way of the world that after a person’s death, as the years pass the lines of their personality fade from our memories and their presence dims in public opinion and public consciousness. This did not happen in the case of Gandhi, Rehavam Ze’evi. In the 13 years that have passed since his horrendous murder here in the heart of Jerusalem, the special figure he represented has become sharper.
Gandhi was a fighter and a man of letters. He walked the length and breadth of the country. Nothing undermined his confidence in the justness of Zionism’s path. He was consumed with a fire to complete his mission – to share his love for the Land of Israel, to contribute to the strength of the State of Israel and to ensure the well-being and security of the people of Israel.

Gandhi dedicated the best years of his life to defending the country and protecting its borders. He knew that the fight against our enemies was not only a security-military campaign, but also a fight to prove the rightness of our path and the justness of our historic rights to the Land of Israel and in the Land of Israel. These two challenges still concern us today, just as they did in the past. Even in the sixty-seventh year of our independence, we still have to deal with significant threats to the security of Israel in a changing Middle East, a Middle East in which radical Islam has raised it head and its proxies compete to see which of them can be the most extreme. It is enough to look at an updated map of Iraq and Syria to see the chaos that is raging there, instigated by the followers of the idea of a caliphate. The black flags are flying and the crimson blood is spilling like water.

In the face of the multitude of threats that surround us, we are determined to protect ourselves as necessary, first and foremost by defending our borders, and of course within our borders. Gandhi contributed significantly to this security doctrine. The more veteran members among us remember the years after the Six Day War. We remember the attacks that came from the Jordanian border, and we came to conclusions. Just recently we built a fence along a different border, our border with the Sinai Peninsula, a fence more than 200 kilometers long, a tremendous engineering wonder that helps us stop terror attacks from Sinai and the penetration of illegal infiltrators to the State of Israel. We are working diligently to strengthen our other borders similarly.

Gandhi was a pioneer in creating a security doctrine and implementing it. When he was Head of the Central Command, he led IDF soldiers in a joint engineering and operational campaign to prevent penetration from the Jordan River. He led IDF fighters in dozens of pursuits of terrorists who sought to break through our eastern defensive line. “In Israel, the commanders led the charge in pursuits; they adhered to their mission, charged forward, sometimes at the cost of their own lives.” And indeed within a few years quiet was restored to the Jordan Valley, which was and remains the State of Israel’s eastern security border.

As to the second challenge, Israel has long faced attacks on its right to exist. Some people deny the strong affinity of the people of Israel for its land, an affinity that was formed 4,000 years ago in the Land of Israel and 3,000 years ago with Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Some people are not willing to recognize the right of our people to a nation-state of their own, who are not willing to recognize the right of the people of Israel to a nation-state for the Jewish people. This was and remains the root of the conflict. There are also quite a few people who accuse IDF soldiers of war crimes, even when we defend ourselves – when we defend ourselves with the highest morality against rocket attacks and terror tunnels, against a blood-thirsty enemy that uses its own children as human shields and does not care that these victims pile up. Or perhaps the opposite is true – the enemy does care and wants more and more victims, and more victims from among its own people. When we defend ourselves against such an enemy, we still face unbelievable hypocrisy and disrespect and baseless accusations.

Quite a bit of this slanderous propaganda was discredited by Gandhi, using his knowledge and expertise which were matchless. He knew very well that the light of Israel had never been extinguished in the Land of Israel, and even when we were exiled from our land we yearned to return of the land of our forefathers. Zionism led to an unbelievable change: It ingathered the exiles back to our homeland; it transformed us into a strong and independent people; and it transformed Israel into a flourishing and prosperous country.
Gandhi said, “The IDF is the only army in history that conquered the Temple Mount and did not destroy or loot the houses of worship on it.” This is a proven fact – only under Israeli sovereignty was the freedom of access to the holy places of all religions upheld. Only under Israeli sovereignty.

So at this session in memory of Minister Rehavam Ze’evi, we will honor his great contribution, a dual contribution: First, his contribution to Israel’s security; and second, his contribution to deepening our national consciousness and proving our justness.

May Gandhi’s memory be blessed.

Israel Musings October 8, 2014: Netanyahu, Obama Administration fight over Jerusalem building, American values

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Netanyahu, Obama Administration fight over Jerusalem building, American values

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s friendly White House meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 was too good to be true considering their track record. It was not destined to last long, within hours Obama…READ MORE

Israel Musings October 1, 2014: Obama, Netanyahu discuss Iran, Palestinians in friendlier White House meeting

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, Netanyahu discuss Iran, Palestinians in friendlier White House meeting

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 that was less acrimonious than their last, President Barack Obama met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office. For Netanyahu the most important part…READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief October 1, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama’s Remarks before Bilateral Meeting — Transcript

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Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 10-1-14

Oval Office

11:23 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it’s good once again to welcome the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu.  Obviously, he’s no stranger to the White House.  I think I’ve met with Bibi more than any world leader during my tenure as President.

We meet at a challenging time.  Israel is obviously in a very turbulent neighborhood, and this gives us an opportunity once again to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel, and our ironclad commitment to making sure that Israel is secure.

Throughout the summer, obviously all of us were deeply concerned about the situation in Gaza.  I think the American people should be very proud of the contributions that we made to the Iron Dome program to protect the lives of Israelis at a time when rockets were pouring into Israel on a regular basis.  I think we also recognize that we have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe in their own homes and schoolchildren in their schools from the possibility of rocket fire, but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well.

And so we’ll discuss extensively both the situation of rebuilding Gaza but also how can we find a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Our agenda will be broader than that, obviously.  I’ll debrief Bibi on the work that we’re doing to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and the broader agenda that I discussed at the United Nations, which is mobilizing a coalition not only for military action, but also to bring about a shift in Arab states and Muslim countries that isolate the cancer of violent extremism that is so pernicious and ultimately has killed more Muslims than anything else.

And we’ll also have an opportunity to discuss the progress that’s being made with respect to dealing with Iran’s nuclear program, which obviously has been a high priority for not only Israel, but also the United States and the world community.

So we have a lot to talk about, and I appreciate very much the Prime Minister coming.  It’s challenging I think for an Israeli Prime Minister to have to work so hard during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but I know that the Prime Minister’s utmost priority is making sure that his country is safe during these difficult times.  And we’re glad that the United States can be a partner in that process.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. President, first I want to thank you.  I want to thank you for the unflinching support you gave Israel during our difficult days and difficult summer we had — expressed in so many ways, but also in an additional installment of support for Iron Dome, which has saved so many lives, saved many lives across the border.  And I thank you for that, and for the continuous bond of friendship that is so strong between Israel and the United States.

I also want to thank you for this opportunity to meet with you and to discuss the enormous challenges facing the United States and Israel in the Middle East.  There’s definitely a new Middle East.  I think it poses new dangers, but it also presents new opportunities.

As for the dangers, Israel fully supports your effort and your leadership to defeat ISIS.  We think everybody should support this.  And even more critical is our shared goal of preventing Iran from becoming a military nuclear power.

As you know, Mr. President, Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you’ve worked so hard to put in place, and leave it as a threshold nuclear power.  I fervently hope that under your leadership that would not happen.

Equally, I think that there are opportunities.  And the opportunities, as you just expressed, is something that is changing in the Middle East, because out of the new situation, there emerges a commonality of interests between Israel and leading Arab states.  And I think that we should work very hard together to seize on those common interests and build a positive program to advance a more secure, more prosperous and a more peaceful Middle East.

I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples based on mutual recognition and rock solid security arrangements on the ground.  And I believe we should make use of the new opportunities, think outside the box, see how we can recruit the Arab countries to advance this very hopeful agenda.  And I look forward to our discussions on these and many other matters.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.

END
11:29 A.M. EDT

Full Text Israel Political Brief August 13, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

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PM Netanyahu meets with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

Source: MFA, 8-13-14

MFASummaryNew

PM Netanyahu: There is a moral divide that is evident today in the world; on one side you see democracies committing to a real future for their people, and on the other you have Islamist tyrannies that have no inhibition and pursue their grisly creeds and their grisly deeds.

PM Netanyahu with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in Jerusalem
 

PM Netanyahu with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in Jerusalem

Copyright: GPO/Haim Zach

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Wednesday, 13 August 2014), met with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Following are their statements:

Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“Governor, I want to welcome your delegation to Israel. It’s a pleasure to see you all here, especially at this time. I just said to you that the first thing I want you to do is to send warmest regards to your father. I remember him fondly from my days in the UN. At that time in the UN, I had to address the question of the constant attempts to force a moral asymmetry on the world or a false symmetry on Israel. That’s what you do in the United Nations if you are the ambassador of Israel. And I remember how strongly, firmly and clearly Governor Cuomo, Mario Cuomo, stood with Israel at the time and this is a tradition that continues with you and your delegation.

I want to thank you for coming here, for standing clearly with Israel, representing the American people and the people of New York, and also representing the rejection of this false symmetry that is, has made. Just as you wouldn’t put America and ISIS on the same moral plane, you’d never put Israel and Hamas on the same moral plane. Remember that Hamas celebrating 9/11; they celebrated the murder of thousands of innocent people, including thousands of New Yorkers. They celebrated! They were standing on the roofs cheering while all the people of Israel grieved with the United States. When the United States killed Bin Laden, they accused the United States and condemned the United States of committing crimes. This tells you where Hamas is and Israel is on the other side.

Hamas continues to do these horrible things that ISIS does: They persecute Christians, they persecute gays, they persecute women, they basically reject modernity and there are a terrorist tyranny that is imposed on their people. And where their people reject being used as human shields, you know what they do, Governor? They execute them. This is the kind of moral divide that is evident today in the world, and on one side you see Israel and the United States representing democracies committing to human rights, committing to a real future for our people; and on the other side, you have the likes of ISIS and Hamas, Islamist tyrannies that have no inhibition and pursue their grisly creeds and their grisly deeds.

I thank you for coming here and standing on the right side of the moral divide.”

New York Governor Cuomo:

“Thank you. Thank you very much. Well, Prime Minister, it’s our pleasure. We know that you’re going through a very difficult time right now and Israel is going through a very difficult time. And that is precisely why we’re here: Because we want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, we want to stand in solidarity with you. The delegation that has come forward is unprecedented in some ways. We have both sides of the legislature, the Assembly and the Senate. It’s a bipartisan delegation. We have business representatives, [unclear] leaders, and we all wanted to come as one, in solidarity, in unity, to say to Israel: We understand the situation you’re in, we understand what you are facing and we support your right, your leave to defend your people against terror.

The United States has always been a strong ally of Israel on many, many levels. As New Yorkers, we have many connections, family connections, cultural connections, historic connections, so our relations go very deep. And I speak for all New Yorkers when I say: We stand in solidarity with Israel. The fight that you fight is the fight against terror. Unfortunately in New York, we’ve had a rude awakening to the pain and suffering that terror can cause in 9/11. So we have a special sensitivity in our hearts for what you’re going through now.

We wish you peace, everyone hopes that the killing will stop and we can get to a place of peace. I know that’s your hope. You’ve been quite articulate and eloquent on the subject, but we understand that Israel must defend itself. The discovery of these tunnels I find very troubling indeed. It shows the extensive approach of the enemy, the constant rocket fire and the Iron Dome is successful, but it must stop and we understand that also. So, we pray for peace. We stand with you in defense.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 26, 2014: President Shimon Peres Addresses the United States Congress and Receives the Congressional Gold Medal

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President Peres Addresses the United States Congress & Receives the Congressional Gold Medal

Source: MFA, 6-26-14

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​President Peres: “Terror knows no borders and obeys no rules.  Terrorists act globally and should be fought globally. We must fight not only the acts of terrorism but also the roots of terrorism.”
GovXDescriptionImg
President Shimon Peres addressing the US Congress

  President Shimon Peres addressing the US Congress

Copyright: GPO/Kobi Gideon

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(Communicated by the Office of the President)

Leaders and Members of Congress,

I am humbled to stand here today in this Rotunda, in this great Pantheon of Democracy, the Congress of the United States.

Here, you give expression to the unbreakable spirit of the American people. It was first expressed 237 years ago when your forefathers signed a document whose words will echo for all time. “Among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those words resonate with as much meaning today, as they did when America’s first patriots wrote them. They have inspired generations of Americans to dream of a better America. And they have inspired peoples across the globe to dream for a better world.

Many people call me a dreamer. I suppose that’s why I have always felt at home here in America. America that was given the privilege to carry the dreams of humanity. My own first dream was to be a shepherd on a kibbutz. This dream came true. At dawn, I watched the sheep in order not to lose one. At night, I watched the stars in order not to miss one.

The dreams of a young shepherd were interrupted by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s George Washington, who called me to serve the Jewish state at birth. I was 24 years old. yet Ben-Gurion entrusted me with heavy responsibilities. He made me Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He charged me with securing our young nation’s ability to defend itself. I worked hard. I had little time to study. I didn’t know a word of English.

After our War of Independence, Ben-Gurion suggested I go the United States to learn English. “Study the American dream.” He told me. So I did.

I learned that America is not a land for the idle. It is a home for the daring. The American dream is about hard work, pioneering spirit, can-do attitude. I learned that the two great bodies that sit under this iconic marble dome – the Senate and the House of Representatives – offered a tiny Israel, struggling for life, an unbelievable and unbreakable friendship.

You helped Israel out of its loneliness. You helped Israel overcome our small size in a tough neighborhood. You helped us maintain a resilient democracy, to become strong enough to take risks for peace. Whether through military assistance and security cooperation or through diplomatic and moral support, you sent us a clear message: That we are not alone.

On behalf of all the people of Israel, I want to thank my friend and Israel’s friend, President Barack Obama, for standing by our side with an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.

I want to thank each and every one of you, the American Congress, for your unwavering, bipartisan and generous support. Thank you for helping us weather so many storms, And for giving us confidence to face the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The challenges we face are considerable. Together, we must fight terrorism, advance peace, prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Like President Obama, Israel hopes that the issue of Iran will be resolved peacefully. And like President Obama, we believe that Iran should be judged by actions not words.

The artificial structures in the Middle East built by the previous empires are falling apart. At the same time, the rules governing the world are being rewritten. Security and prosperity are no longer mainly national issues. National economies are dependent on the global economy. National security is increasingly dependent on fighting global terrorism. And national security is now increasingly dependent on fighting global terrorism.

Amidst all the chaoss in the Middle East, it is easy to sink into despair. But I have seen too much in my life to lose hope. I have seen Israel defy the odds, time and again. I have seen Israel defeat superior enemies on the battlefield and send soldiers to rescue hostages thousands of miles from home.

Israel has shown it can defend itself against those who sought our destruction. Israel did and will do, everything in our power to bring home our three kidnapped boys – Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal. I met with their parents. They asked me to speak here on their behalf. To make your voices heard all over the world to help bring our boys home. To sound a call across the world against terror. Let’s raise our voices together against terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have seen the genius of Israelis make our poor Middle Eastern land bloom and turn Israel into a global center of technology. I learned that hi-tech can quench the world’s thirst for water and heal the planet. We increased yields without increasing land. As the grandson of a Rabbi burnt alive with his community by the Nazis in a synagogue in Belarus in 1942 -  I know that even the darkest hour cannot prevent a new dawn from arriving.

My friends,

Today and together, we must tackle the two monumental challenges we face: Terrorism and poverty.

Terror knows no borders and obeys no rules. It kills hundreds of thousands, and turns millions into refugees. We see it in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Gaza and elsewhere. Terrorists act globally. Therefore, they should be fought globally. We must fight not only the acts of terrorism but the roots of terrorism. Not just by military means. But by drying up their financial resources. By sanctioning their suppliers of arms. By delegitimizing their actions. By weaving a modern regional net that can catch terrorists and protect the innocent populations.

Arabs are not Israel’s enemies. The terrorists are the enemies of both of us. Terrorists spread danger over the entire region. The region must come together to stop them. The time is ripe to do so.

Religions can play a meaningful role in restoring tolerance and hope. Religion can never permit terrorists to hijack faith and perpetrate violence in the name of heaven. We need more voices like Pope Francis. We need rabbis, priests and imams to preach respect for God in heaven and life on earth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is our duty to offer the young generation a vision more compelling more promising for the future.  The population of the Middle East grew 5 times over in the last 50 years. Its economy did not.
Poverty soared. An era of science replaced the era of land. We experience it daily. Israel has little land, even less water and no oil. But we became a start-up nation through hi-tech and hard work. I learned that the turmoil of today can provide a new hope for tomorrow. And my dream today is that the Middle East will become a start-up region. To make that happen, leaders in the region must do their share to open their societies.

Because without free thinking there is no new thinking. And without openness there are no discoveries. Global companies should play a role helping the region become up to date and prepare for tomorrow. Two thirds of the Middle East population is under 25. For some, that is a cause for concern. For me, it’s a source of hope. For business, it’s a great opportunity for investment both economically and socially. Global companies are aware that young people want a different future.

They want free expression and self-expression. They want equal rights, including the equal right to be different.

Our two countries – Israel and America – also have a unique contribution to offer. We’re not the same size but we share the same values and the same dreams. Our dreams keep us young. Our values keep us true.

What Israel already learned from experience, we want to share with our neighbors. In my decades of having the privilege of serving Israel. I saw her become a thriving democracy. A diverse society. A leading defense force. And a cutting edge scientific community.

Together we can help put the region on a more promising course. Through initiatives in health, education, agriculture, water, and science. I hope to dedicate myself to this work in the years ahead.

As for America, it remains indispensable. America is the greatest power in the world today. And the only great power in history that never tried to become an Empire. You became great not by taking but by giving. America is a force for good. A force for progress. A force for peace. The world is fortunate that America continues to lead it. 60 years ago, America looked to the moon to discover a distant land. Today, the United States is leading a major scientific effort to reveal the secrets of the mind. We are partners in this effort. May I say that in my judgment, there may be more to discover in the brain than on the moon.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

America and Israel should continue to work together to advance peace. Wars can be waged alone. Peace calls for a collective effort. Israel went through 7 wars and attained 2 peace agreements. With Egypt – the largest Arab country. And Jordan – our longest shared border. I hope that we will be able to renew peace talks with the Palestinians soon. Israel does not intend to rule over other people. It stands against our values and heritage. Israel is committed to Tikkun Olam, bettering the world, and making peace with its neighbors.

President Abbas is clearly a partner for peace. He spoke bravely in Saudi Arabia, in Arabic, against the kidnappings, against terror, and for peace. But you cannot put fire and water in the same glass. Hamas is clearly not a partner for peace. Hamas fires rockets at our civilians. They oppose peace and support terror. Finding a way forward is hard. But we must not lose hope. There is no better solution than two states for two peoples. A Jewish state – Israel. And an Arab state – Palestine.

Peace between Israel and Palestine can forge a broader regional peace. A bridge should be built to enable an Israeli peace initiative to meet the Arab peace initiative. I have lived long enough to see the impossible become possible. To skeptics, I can say: Believe me. Peace is the most possible impossibility.

In one month, I will end my term as Israel’s ninth President. But I will never give up on the struggle to achieve peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I leave you today with one piece of advice. It is the advice of a boy who dreamed on a kibbutz who never imagined where his blessed life would take him. When Theodore Herzl said: “If you will it, it is no dream.” He was right. Looking back on the life of Israel, our dreams proved – not to be too big – but too small.

Because Israel achieved much more than I could have ever imagined. So I ask only one thing of you, the United States of America, this mighty nation of dreamers. Don’t dream small. You are great. Dream big.  And work to will those dreams into a new reality. For you and all humanity. God bless you all. And God bless the United States of America.

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 25, 2014: National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice’s Remarks at a Dinner Honoring Israeli President Shimon Peres

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Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at a Dinner Honoring Israeli President Shimon Peres

Source: WH, 6-25-14 

Washington, DC
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
As Delivered 

Good evening everyone—erev tov.  And, thank you so much, Ron, Rhoda, for this lovely evening.  It’s a true honor, Ron, to be asked to celebrate one of Israel’s greatest sons and a walking global treasure, my friend President Shimon Peres.

Over the years, Mr. President, you have been many things—a dreamer, a state-builder, a founding father, a prime minister, a peacemaker.  Your life has been the life of the state of Israel. You all sometimes hear him called an “elder statesman,” but I know every one of us in this room would kill to have the energy that you have (Laughter),  You’ve won the world’s admiration and most of its medals, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and, tomorrow, the Congressional Gold Medal—together, America’s highest civilian honors.  And you didn’t just win the Nobel Peace Prize, you earned it, and you earn it every single day.  So thank you, Mr. President, for your tireless efforts to make this world a better place—for your tireless commitment to the state of Israel and tikkun olam.

President Peres and I became friends after we met in 2009 in New York, and he invited me to Israel later that year to speak at the incredible conference that he convenes.  And since then, I’ve been extremely privileged to meet with him many times and to benefit not only from his extraordinary wisdom but also from his unbelievable kindness.  On more than one occasion, when from very far away, he sensed that perhaps I was having a bit of a rough patch, he would call or write or find some other special way of letting me know that he was there, and that I was in his thoughts.  What a wonderful man.  Thank you.

Someone once asked Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel Aviv, how it is that you become mayor of a city in Israel—and he said, first, you build the city (Laughter).  So, if someone asks President Peres how he came to lead the state of Israel, well—first, you build the state of Israel.  And that is just what you have done, more than any other man alive.  And, that makes him a great gift to all of us—the last of Israel’s founding lions.

From the moment that President Truman made the United States the very first country to recognize the Jewish state, 11 minutes after Shimon’s great mentor David Ben-Gurion declared Israel’s independence in Tel Aviv, the relationship between our two proud democracies has grown like a mighty oak.  As President Obama reaffirmed when he met with President Peres today, the United States’ commitment to the peace and security of Israel is unbreakable and unshakable.  Our peoples share a friendship that’s rooted in our common values:  liberty, democracy, human rights, and human dignity. You can see it in this room tonight, where we’ve all gathered—leaders and citizens from across America’s political spectrum, united in our love and support for Israel.  And so much of that, too, is because of the personal efforts—over a lifetime—of Shimon Peres.

Now, everyone here knows that he’s eminently quotable.  He’s the inventor of the “Peres-ism” (Laughter).   I’m sure all of you have your favorites. There’s the one that every campaign manager should know, and I quote, he actually said it today, “Polls are like perfume—nice to smell, dangerous to swallow” (Laughter). Especially apt in this room.  But the one that most stays with me is pretty simple.  He said, “There are no hopeless situations, only hopeless people.”

Shimon Peres is someone who believes that despair is a sin and service is a duty.  And, serve is what you have done your entire life—from your early days on the kibbutz, making the desert bloom, and throughout your decades of dedication to Israel.  That’s the spirit in which Shimon Peres has worked with every American president since John F. Kennedy.  That’s how he’s earned admirers the world over.  And that’s why he remains so committed to advancing the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, including through his meeting with President Abbas and Pope Francis at the Vatican this month.

Mr. President, you set an example for us all.  And so, we too will stay true to the cause of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  Because ultimately, the only path out of this tragic conflict is a secure, democratic, Jewish state living side-by-side in peace and security with a viable, independent Palestinian state (Applause).

Tonight as well, all of our hearts are hurting for the three Israeli students who were kidnapped in the West Bank, one of whom, as you all know, is also an American.  President Obama and all of us in the U.S. government are deeply concerned.  We have offered every assistance, and, as parents—in my case of a sixteen year old boy—we all feel this very personally.  So, we pray for their safe return and for the strength for their families through this agonizing vigil.  And, continued cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians is also critical—both to ensure that the search succeeds and to prevent the situation in the West Bank from further destabilizing.

One might argue that these are difficult days.  But there are no hopeless situations, only hopeless people—and President Peres reminds us never to count ourselves among them.  What counts is working to bend history in the direction of hope.

So, in the book that I know as Psalms, and that many of you know as Tehillim, Moses beseeches the Lord, quote, “establish thou the works of our hands upon us.”  Many of us were raised on that prayer, though some of you learned it in the original.  And I hear in it not only a cry to heaven, but a call to action here on earth.  That’s a call you have answered, Mr. President, every day of your life.  And, we are all inspired by the work to which you have put your able hands.  This room is full of people deeply moved by your service, your courage, and your determination to pursue progress, security, and peace.

So, tonight, we celebrate the next chapter in the life of Shimon Peres.  We join you in recommitting ourselves to the cause of peace.  And, together, we ask for that ancient blessing:  Establish thou the works of our hands, oh Lord.  On behalf of President Obama and all of your friends here in the United States, we wish you, like Moses, “Ad meyah v’essreem!”  May you live to 120! (Laughter) Thank you.

Israel Political Brief June 25, 2014: President Shimon Peres meets with President Barack Obama at the White House Oval Office

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President Peres meets with President Obama

Source: MFA, 6-25-14

MFASummaryNew
“I thank you for your friendship to the State of Israel and the Jewish people – under your leadership our strategic relations have reached new heights.”
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President Peres meets with President Obama

  President Peres meets with President Obama

Copyright: GPO/Kobi Gideon

 

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 13, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry about the kidnappings and Hamas-Fatah Unity Government

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PM Netanyahu Speaks with US Secretary of State John Kerry

Source: PMO, 6-13-14
יום שישי ט”ו סיון תשע”ד

 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke with US Secretary of State John Kerry and told him that Abu Mazen was responsible for the well-being of the missing. The Prime Minister added that what has been happening on the ground since Hamas’ entry into the Palestinian government is destructive and the result of the entry of a murderous terrorist organization into the goverrnment.

Full Text Israel Political Brief June 10, 2014: US President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Presidential Election in Israel

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Statement by the President on the Presidential Election in Israel

Source: WH, 6-10-14 

The people of the United States join me in offering Reuven Rivlin congratulations on his election as the next President of the State of Israel.

Over more than six decades, the United States and Israel have developed a unique relationship based on shared democratic values, our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and our partnership in scientific research and innovative technology.  President-elect Rivlin has a long and dedicated record of public service and we look forward to continued strong ties, to the benefit of both our nations, under Mr. Rivlin’s presidency.

As President Shimon Peres nears the end of his term, he can look back on a remarkable legacy of courage, conviction, and compassion.  He has dedicated his extraordinary life to the cause of peace, and I look forward to welcoming him in Washington later this month where he will receive the Congressional Gold Medal.

Israel Political Brief June 3, 2014: US State Dept Contradicts Netanyahu Says There Are No Hamas Members in Unity Government

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US: There Are No Hamas Members in Unity Government

The United States on Tuesday rejected Israel’s expressions of disappointment over its statements that Washington was planning to cooperate with the new Palestinian Authority (PA) unity government. Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 6, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s California Trip Promoting Tourism and Industry

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PM Netanyahu Held a Series of Meetings in Silicon Valley in Order to Promote Investments in the Israeli Technology Industry

Source: PMO, 3-6-14
יום חמישי ד’ אדר ב תשע”ד

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, yesterday, held a series of meetings in Silicon Valley in order to promote investments in the Israeli technology industry.

Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Apple CEO Tim Cook and other corporate leaders, and was briefed on Apple’s activities in Israel, which have significantly expanded since their inception approximately two-and-a-half years ago. The Prime Minister invited Cook to visit Israel and proposed that Apple begin activity at the national cyber park in Be’er Sheva. – Click here to view the video

Prime Minister Netanyahu also met with the WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton and discussed cyber protection technologies that have been developed in Israel. – Click here to view the video

Prime Minister Netanyahu signed a strategic partnership agreement with California Governor Edmund G. (“Jerry”) Brown, Jr. to promote economic relations between Israel and California. for further details and the complete text of the agreement.) Flextronics CEO Mike McNamara and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki were among the corporate leaders attending the meeting. Prime Minister Netanyahu called on the corporate leaders to increase their investments in the Israeli economy. He also referred over-regulation in Israel and said that in intends to implement deregulation reforms. – Click to view the video

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference about Peace Talks, Iran’s Nuclear Weapons and BDS Movement — Transcript

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Full Transcript: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference, 2014

Source: Algemeiner, 3-4-14

Benjamin Netanyahu finishes his address to the Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington on March 4, 2014.  (photo credit: AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

Benjamin Netanyahu finishes his address to the Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington on March 4, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

Below is the full transcript of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the March 4th, 2014, AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington D.C.

Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

I — I bring you greetings from Jerusalem — (cheers, applause) — the eternal, undivided capital of Israel and the Jewish people. (Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank all of you for working so tirelessly to strengthen the alliance between Israel and America. American — American support for Israel and for that alliance is at an all-time high. And I can tell you that there is no country on earth that is more pro-American than Israel. (Applause.)

So I want to thank the leaders of AIPAC, the officers of AIPAC, the 14,000 delegates of AIPAC — (cheers, applause) — the members of Congress, the members of the Israeli government — Tzipi Livni, Limor Livnat, Yuval Steinitz, Deputy Minister Elkin, members of the Knesset — and our two able ambassadors, the ambassador of Israel to the United States, Ron Dermer — (applause) — and the ambassador of the United States to Israel, Dan Shapiro, and our U.N. ambassador, Ron Prosor. Everyone, I want to thank you all for safeguarding and nurturing the most precious alliance in the world, the alliance between Israel and the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

My friends, I’ve — I’ve come here to draw a clear line.

You know that I like to draw lines — (laughter) — especially red ones. But the line I want to draw today is the line between life and death, between right and wrong, between the blessings of a brilliant future and the curses of a dark past.

I stood very close to that dividing line two weeks ago. I visited an Israeli army field hospital in the Golan Heights. Now, that field hospital wasn’t set up for Israelis. It was set up for Syrians. (Applause.) Israelis treated nearly a thousand wounded Syrians — men, women and a lot of children. They come to our border fence bleeding and desperate. Often they’re near death.

And on my visit I met two such Syrians, a shellshocked father and his badly wounded 5-year-old boy. A few days earlier the man’s wife and baby daughter were blown to bits by Iranian bombs dropped by Assad’s air force. Now the grieving father was holding his little boy in his arms, and Israeli doctors were struggling to save the boy’s life.

I heard from them and from the other patients there what all the Syrians who’ve come to be treated in Israel are saying. They all tell the same story. They say, all these years, Assad lied to us. He told us that Iran was our friend and Israel was our enemy. But Iran is killing us, and Israel, Israel is saving us. (Applause.)

Those Syrians discovered what you’ve always known to be true: In the Middle East, bludgeoned by butchery and barbarism, Israel is humane; Israel is compassionate; Israel is a force for good. (Applause.)

That border, that runs a hundred yards east of that field hospital, is the dividing line between decency and depravity, between compassion and cruelty. On the one side stands Israel, animated by the values we cherish, values that move us to treat sick Palestinians, thousands of them, from Gaza. They come to our hospitals. We treat them despite the fact that terrorists from Gaza hurl thousands of rockets at our cities.

It’s those same values that inspires Israeli medics and rescuers to rush to the victims of natural disasters across the world, to Haiti, to Turkey, to Japan, the Philippines, to many other stricken lands.

Now, on the other side of that moral divide, steeped in blood and savagery, stand the forces of terror — Iran, Assad, Hezbollah, al- Qaida and many others. Did you ever hear about Syria sending a field hospital anywhere? Did you ever hear about Iran sending a humanitarian delegation overseas? No? You missed that memo? (Laughter.) You know why? You know why you haven’t heard anything about that? Because the only thing that Iran sends abroad are rockets, terrorists and missiles to murder, maim and menace the innocent. (Applause.)

And what the — what the Iranian people — or rather, what the Iranian regime does abroad is just as — is similar to what they do to their own people. They execute hundreds of political prisoners, they throw thousands more into their jails, and they repress millions in a brutal theocracy.

If you want to understand the moral divide that separates Israel from its enemies, just listen to Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, Iran’s terror proxy in Lebanon. He said this. He said: Iran and Hezbollah love death and Israel loves life.

And that’s why, he said, Iran and Hezbollah will win and Israel will lose.

Well, he’s right about the first point. They do glorify death, and we do sanctify life. But he’s dead wrong on the second point. (Applause.) It’s precisely because we love life that Israel shall win. (Cheers, applause.)

In the past year Iran’s radical regime has tried to blur this moral divide. It wields out its smiling president and its smooth- talking foreign minister. But if you listen to their words, their soothing words, they don’t square with Iran’s aggressive actions.

Iran says it only wants a peaceful nuclear program. So why is it building a heavy water reactor, which has no purpose in a peaceful nuclear program? Iran says it has noting to hide. So why does it ban inspectors from its secret military sites? Why doesn’t it divulge its military nuclear secret — the secrets of its military nuclear activities? They absolutely refuse to say a word about that. Iran says it’s not building nuclear weapons. So why does it continue to build ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles, whose only purpose is to carry nuclear warheads?

See, unlike Scud missiles, that are limited to a range of a few hundred miles, ICBMs can cross vast oceans. And they can strike, right now or very soon, the Eastern seaboard of the United States — Washington — and very soon after that, everywhere else in the United States, up to L.A.

And the important point to make is this: Iran’s missiles can already reach Israel, so those ICBMs that they’re building, they’re not intended for us. You remember that beer commercial, “this Bud’s for you”? (Laughter.) Well, when you see Iran building ICBMs, just remember, America, that Scud’s for you. (Scattered applause.)

Now, it’s not only that — only the Americans got that joke. (Laughter.) It’s not only that Iran doesn’t walk the walk. In the last few weeks, they don’t even bother to talk the talk. Iran’s leaders say they won’t dismantle a single centrifuge, they won’t discuss their ballistic missile program. And guess what tune they’re singing in Tehran? It’s not “God Bless America,” it’s “death to America.” And they chant this as brazenly as ever. Some charm offensive.

And here’s my point. Iran continues to stand unabashedly on the wrong side of the moral divide. And that’s why we must continue to stand unequivocally on the right side of that divide. We must oppose Iran and stand up for what is right. (Applause.)

My friends, yesterday I met with President Obama, with Vice President Biden, with Secretary Kerry and with the leaders of the U.S. Congress. We had very good meetings. I thanked them for their strong support for Israel — (applause) — for our security, including in the vital area of missile defense.

I said that the greatest threat to our common security is that of a nuclear-armed Iran. We must prevent Iran from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons. And I want to reiterate that point. Not just to prevent them from having the weapon, but to prevent them from having the capacity to make the weapon. (Applause.) That means — that means we must dismantle Iran’s heavy water reactor and its underground enrichment facilities. We must get rid of Iran’s centrifuges and its stockpiles of enriched uranium and we must insist that Iran fully divulge the military dimensions of its nuclear program.

Now 17 countries around the world have peaceful nuclear energy programs. They’re doing this without spending centrifuges, without enriching uranium, without operating heavy water facilities and without conducting military nuclear research.

You know why Iran insists on doing all these things that the other peaceful countries don’t do? It’s because Iran doesn’t want a peaceful nuclear program, Iran wants a military nuclear program.

I said it here once, I’ll say it here again: If it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it?

Well, it’s ain’t a chicken — (laughter) — and it’s certainly not a dove. It’s still a nuclear duck. (Applause.) Unfortunately, the leading powers of the world are talking about leaving Iran with the capability to enrich uranium.

I hope they don’t do that because that would be a grave error. It would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power. It would enable Iran to rapidly develop nuclear weapons at a time when the world’s attention is focused elsewhere. And we see, as we speak, that that could happen. In one part of the world today, tomorrow in another part — maybe North Korea.

So just remember what — (inaudible) — wrote a few years ago. He wrote this in a rare moment of candor. He said: If a country can enrich uranium, even to a low level, it can effectively produce nuclear weapons. Precisely. And leaving Iran as a threshold nuclear power, would deliver a death-blow to nonproliferation. Iran is an outlaw state. It’s violated multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions prohibiting enrichment.

If we allow this outlaw terrorist state to enrich uranium, how could we seriously demand that any other country not enrich uranium?

My friends, I believe that letting Iran enrich uranium would open up the floodgates. It really would open up a Pandora’s box of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the world. That must not happen. (Applause.) And we will make sure it does not happen.

Because letting the worst terrorist regime on the planet get atomic bombs would endanger everyone, and it certainly would endanger Israel since Iran openly calls for our destruction.

70 years ago, our people, the Jewish people, were left for dead. We came back to life. We will never be brought to the brink of extinction again. (Applause.)

As prime minister as Israel, I will do whatever I must do to defend the Jewish state of Israel. (Applause.)

You know, I’m often — I’m often asked whether Israel truly wants diplomacy to succeed, and my answer is, of course we want diplomacy to succeed, because no country has a greater interest in the peaceful elimination of the Iranian nuclear threat. But this threat — this threat will not be eliminated by just any agreement, only by an agreement which requires Iran to fully dismantle its military nuclear capability. (Applause.)

Now you know how you get that agreement with Iran? Not by relieving pressure but by adding pressure. (Applause.) Pressure is what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, and only more pressure will get to abandon their nuclear weapons program. Greater pressure on Iran will not make war more likely; it will make war less likely — (applause) — because the greater the pressure on Iran, the greater the pressure on Iran and more credible the threat of force on Iran, the smaller the chance that force will ever have to be used.

Ladies and gentlemen, peace is Israel’s highest aspiration. I’m prepared to make a historic peace with our Palestinian neighbors — (applause) — a peace that would end a century of conflict and bloodshed. Peace would be good for us. Peace would be good for the Palestinians. But peace would also open up the possibility of establishing formal ties between Israel and leading countries in the Arab world.

Many Arab leaders — and believe me, this is a fact, not a hypothesis, it’s a fact — many Arab leaders today already realize that Israel is not their enemy, that peace with the Palestinians would turn our relations with them and with many Arab countries into open and thriving relationships. (Applause.)

The combination of Israeli innovation and Gulf entrepreneurship, to take one example — I think this combination could catapult the entire region forward. I believe that together, we can resolve actually some of the region’s water and energy problems. You know, Israeli has half the rainfall we had 65 years ago. We have 10 times the population. Our GDP has shot up, thank God — GDP per capita, up. So we have half the rainfall, 10 times the population, and our water use goes up. And which country in the world doesn’t have water problems? Yep. Israel. (Applause.)

Why? Because of technology, of innovation, of systems. We could make that available to our Arab neighbors throughout the region that is not exactly blessed with water. We could solve the water problems. We could solve the energy problems. We could improve agriculture. We could improve education with e-learning, health with diagnostics on the Internet. All of that is possible. We could better the lives of hundreds of millions. So we all have so much to gain from peace.

That’s why I want to thank the indomitable John Kerry. You know, New York — (applause) — and Tel-Aviv, they’re the cities that never sleep. John Kerry is definitely the secretary of state who never sleeps.

And — (applause) — and I’ve got the bags under my eyes to prove it. We’re working together, literally day and night, to seek a durable peace, a peace anchored in solid security arrangements and the mutual recognition of two nation-states. (Applause.)

Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people — (applause) — where the civil rights of all citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike, are guaranteed. The land of Israel is the place where the identity of the Jewish people was forged.

It was in Hebron that Abraham blocked the cave of the Patriarchs and the Matriarchs. It was in Bethel that Jacob dreamed his dreams. It was in Jerusalem that David ruled his kingdom. We never forget that, but it’s time the Palestinians stopped denying history. (Applause.)

Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state. (Applause.) President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state, and in doing so, you would be telling your people, the Palestinians, that while we might have a territorial dispute, the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute. (Applause.)

You would be telling Palestinians to abandon the fantasy of flooding Israel with refugees, or amputating parts of the Negev and the Galilee. In recognizing the Jewish state, you would finally making clear that you are truly prepared to end the conflict. So recognize the Jewish state. No excuses, no delays, it’s time. (Applause.)

Now, my friends, it may take years, it may take decades for this formal acceptance of Israel to filter down through all layers of Palestinian society. So if this piece is to be more than a brief interlude between wars, Israel needs long-term security arrangements on the ground to protect the peace and to protect Israel if the peace unravels. You see, those security arrangements would always be important, but they’re even more important and critical today when the entire Middle East is unraveling. Three years ago, our region was a very different place. Can anyone sitting here, anyone listening to us, can anyone tell me and be sure what the Middle East will look like five, 10, 20 years from now? We cannot bet the security of Israel on our fondest hopes.

You know, in the Middle East, that’s usually a losing bet. We should always hope for the best, but in the Middle East we have to be prepared for the worst. And despite the best of hopes, international peacekeeping forces sent to Lebanon, Gaza, Sinai, the Golan Heights, they didn’t prevent those areas from becoming armed strongholds against Israel.

If we reach an agreement, as I hope, with the Palestinians, I don’t delude myself. That peace will most certainly come under attack — constant attack by Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida and others. And experience has shown that foreign peacekeepers — foreign peacekeeping forces, well, that they keep the peace only when there is peace.

But when they’re subjected to repeated attacks, those forces eventually go home. So as long as the peace is under assault, the only force that can be relied on to defend the peace and defend Israel is the force defending its own home — the Israeli Army, the brave soldiers of the IDF. (Applause.)

I’m going to reveal to you a secret. This position may not win me universal praise.

That occasionally happens when I (state ?) our positions. But I’m charged with protecting the security of my people, the people of Israel. And I will never gamble with the security of the one and only Jewish state. (Applause.)

So as we work in the coming days, in the coming weeks, to forge a durable peace, I hope that the Palestinian leadership will stand with Israel and the United States on the right side of the moral divide, the side of peace, reconciliation and hope.

You can clap. You want to encourage them to do that. (Applause.) I do, and I know you do too.

Thank you.

My friends, one movement that’s definitely on the wrong side of the moral divide is the movement to boycott Israel, the so-called BDS. (Applause.) That movement will fail. (Applause.)

Let me tell you why. (Sustained applause.) I want to explain to you why.

Beyond our traditional trading partners, countries throughout Asia, Africa, Latin America, where I’ll soon be going to, these countries are flocking to Israel. They’re not coming to Israel; they’re flocking to Israel.

They want Israeli technology to help transform their countries as it has ours. And it’s not just the small countries that are coming to Israel, it’s also the superpowers. You know, the other superpowers: Apple, Google — (laughter) — Microsoft, Intel, Facebook, Yahoo. They come because they want to benefit from Israel’s unique ingenuity, dynamism and innovation.

And I could tell you the BDS boycott movement is not going to stop that anymore than the Arab boycott movement could stop Israel from becoming a global technological power. They are going to fail. (Applause.) And in the knowledge based century, the knowledge based economy, Israel’s best economic day are ahead of it. Mark my words. (Applause.)

Now, wait, wait. I don’t want you to get complacent — (laughter) — because the fact that they’re going to fail doesn’t mean that the BDS movement shouldn’t be vigorously opposed. They should be opposed because they’re bad for peace and because BDS is just plain wrong. (Applause.)

Most people in the BDS movement don’t seek a solution of two states for two peoples. On the contrary, they openly admit that they seek the dissolution of the only state for the Jewish people. They’re not seeking peace, they’re not seeking reconciliation. But some of their gullible fellow travelers actually do believe that BDS advances peace.

Well, the opposite is true. BDS sets back peace because it hardens Palestinian positions and it makes mutual compromise less likely.

But I think these are all important points, but not the critical important. The critical thing is that BDS is morally wrong. It turns morality on its head. This is the main point. And I can tell you, it’s not that Israel, like all states, is not beyond criticism. We have a boisterous democracy where everyone has an opinion. And believe me, no one in Israel is shy about expressing it — about anything. In Israel, self-criticism is on steroids. (Laughter.)

But the BDS movement is not about legitimate criticism. It’s about making Israel illegitimate. It presents a distorted and twisted picture of Israel to the naive and to the ignorant. BDS is nothing but a farce. Here’s why, listen: In dozens of countries academics are imprisoned for their beliefs. So the universities of which country does BDS want to sanction and boycott? Israel — the one country in the Middle East where professors can say, write and teach what they want.

Throughout the Middle East, Christians are fleeing for their lives. So which country does BDS want churches to divest from? You got it — Israel, the one country in the Middle East that protects Christians and protects the right of worship for everyone. (Applause.)

Throughout the Middle East — throughout the Middle East, journalists are jailed, gays are hanged and women are denied their most basic rights. So which country does BDS want to sanction? Take a guess. Israel — the only country in the region with a free press, a progressive gays’ rights record and where women have presided over each of the three branches of government. (Applause.)

Now, when you hear this — and anybody can verify this — so you have to wonder, how could anyone fall for the BS in BDS? (Laughter, applause.) How can they fall for this?

Well, you shouldn’t be surprised. Throughout history, people believed the most outrageously absurd things about the Jews, that we were using the blood of children to bake matzos, that we were spreading the plague throughout Europe, that we were plotting to take over the world. Yeah, but you can say how can educated people, how could educated people today believe the nonsense spewed by BDS about Israel? Well, that shouldn’t surprise you either. Some of history’s most influential thinkers and writers — Voltaire, Dostoyevsky, T.S. Eliot, many, many others — spread the most preposterous lies about the Jewish people. It’s hard to shed prejudices that have been ingrained in consciousness over millennia.

And from antiquity to the Middle Ages to modern times, Jews were boycotted, discriminated against and singled out.

Today the singling out of the Jewish people has turned into the singling out of the Jewish state. So you see, attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on Earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti- Semitism. (Applause.) Those who wear — those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. They should be exposed and condemned. The boycotters should be boycotted. (Applause, cheers.)

Everyone should know what the letters B-D-S really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty and shame. (Applause.) And those who — those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, they should be applauded. (Cheers, applause.)

Scarlett, I have one thing to say to you: Frankly, my dear, I DO give a damn. (Applause.) And I know all of you give a damn, as do decent people everywhere who reject hypocrisy and lies and cherish integrity and truth.

My friends, on behalf of the people of Israel, I bring you message from Jerusalem, the cradle of our common civilization, the crucible of our shared values. It’s a message from the Bible. (In Hebrew.) (Applause.) I have put before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life so that you and your offspring may live.

Ladies and gentlemen, my friends, never forget — America and Israel stand for life. We stand together on the right side of the moral divide. We stand together on the right side of history. (Applause.) So stand tall, stand strong, stand proud. (Cheers, applause.) Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you all. Keep doing a great job. (Applause.) Thank you.

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2014: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech to 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference: Netanyahu: Israel prepared to make peace, but Abbas must recognize Jewish state

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Netanyahu: Israel prepared to make peace, but Abbas must recognize Jewish state

Source: Haaretz, 3-4-14

Netanyau at AIPAC, March 4, 2014.

Netanyahu acknowledges applause as he arrives to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in Washington, March 4, 2014. Photo by Reuters

Israel, U.S. stand on the ‘right side of the moral divide and of history,’ prime minister tells AIPAC conference….READ MORE

Israel Musings March 4, 2014: Netanyahu, Obama’s stand-off White House meeting after harsh Bloomberg interview

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Netanyahu, Obama’s stand-off White House meeting after harsh Bloomberg interview

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In a meeting more frosty than the Washington snowstorm around them, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and United States President Barack Obama met in the White House Oval Office on Monday afternoon, Mar. 3, 2014 to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian…READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 3, 2014: US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Speech at the 2014 American Israel Public Affairs Committee AIPAC Policy Conference — Transcript

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference

Source: State.gov, 3-3-14

Remarks

John Kerry
Washington Convention Center
Washington, DC
March 3, 2014

Norm, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you all, 14,000 strong or more. (Applause.) Howard, Howard Friedman and Executive Director Howard Kohr, incoming president Bob Cohen, incoming chairman Michael Kassen, outgoing chairman Lee Rosenberg, and Ambassador Ron Dermer and Ambassador Dan Shapiro. I don’t know where our ambassadors are. Would they – somebody ought to applaud both of them here. (Applause.) There they are. Thanks for your own, Norman.

Let me tell you, it really is an enormous pleasure for me to be able to be here. It’s a privilege. And good to see so many friends, all 14,000 of you – a little frightening to see myself on about eight, nine, ten screens up here – (laughter). The last time I spoke to AIPAC, I joined your national summit in Napa Valley. I did it via satellite. And you were in the vineyards, I was overseas – a different kind of vineyard. So today, I think I’m getting the better end of the deal because I am here with you in person, and your wine selection is a lot more limited this time.

I have to tell you, I had the pleasure of speaking to AIPAC back in the 1990s, it was a great honor, and every time I come here, whether I get a chance to talk to a smaller group during the daytime sessions or otherwise, this is a remarkably inspiring gathering – people from every corner of the country coming together to demonstrate our deep support as Americans for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. (Applause.)

And it is no exaggeration. It’s not just words to say that every single one of you brings here such a special passion to a cause that you so fiercely believe in. And let me tell you something unequivocally: After almost 30 years in the United States Senate, I can tell you that is precisely why AIPAC’s work is in the best traditions of American democracy, and I thank you for practicing it. (Applause.)

I want you to know that in my judgment, these democratic values are stamped in the DNA of both the United States and Israel. But we also share something much deeper than that. Like no other two countries on the planet, against the deepest odds, both America and Israel confidently, purposefully set out to be examples to the world. Think about it. From its earliest days, Israel has always said it’s not enough just to be one of many in a community of nations; Israel has strived since Isaiah’s time to serve as a light unto the nations. (Applause.) And that responsibility to be a light unto the nations sounds actually unbelievably similar to something that we as Americans know is part of who we are, too.

My grandfather ten times over – too hard to count in other terms – was a man by the name of John Winthrop. And he came to what was then the New World, and he came in search of freedom, freedom to worship as he wished. He was a minister. He and his congregants were outcasts, persecuted, heading into a rough and unforgiving land with no guarantee even of survival. And on his way here, he delivered a now fairly famous sermon at sea in which he called on his community to create a city upon a hill in their new home, America.

So whether you call it a city upon a hill or a light unto the nations, it actually means the same thing: being a model to the world. It means having a home that sets a standard, a standard of dignity and a standard of freedom. So the foundation of the friendship between the American people and the people of Israel was actually laid centuries before a single stone was set under the U.S. Capitol or under the Knesset. And looking around this room tonight, it is clear that our friendship has never been stronger. (Applause.)

And I’ll tell you why. Because today, as Israel faces serious challenges to her future, it is America that will stand firmly by her side. (Applause.) I will tell you that with the leadership of President Obama – and you can look it up, you can measure it; this is not an exaggeration, it’s a matter of fact – there has been a complete, unmatched commitment to Israel’s security. The record of this Administration in providing aid and assistance, consultation, weapons, help, standing up in various international fora, fighting, I am proud to tell you, is unrivaled. And the bottom line, pure and simple, has been making sure that Israel has the means to defend itself by itself and defending Israel’s right to be able to do so. That is what we’ve done. (Applause.)

Security. Security is fundamentally what President Obama is committed to. And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter when it comes to ensuring the security of Israel: preventing a nuclear Iran and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Applause.)

Now let me start with Iran because I know there are many questions. I know many people – there’s been a healthy debate about the approach. We welcome that. But let me sum up President Obama’s policy in 10 simple, clear words, unequivocal: We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period. (Applause.) Now, I added an eleventh word just for punctuation. (Laughter.)

But I want you to understand there are no if, ands, or buts. This is not a political policy. This is a real foreign policy. And we mean every word of what we say. You have the word of the President of the United States that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. Now, as we said at the outset, and I say it again today, our diplomacy is guided by a simple bottom line: No deal is better than a bad deal. (Applause.) And we absolutely will not accept a bad deal. We are committed to a deal that gets the job done. (Applause.)

Why? Because we get it, we understand it. As President Obama said in Jerusalem, no one can question why Israel looks at the Iranian program and sees an existential threat. We understand it. We understand it in our gut. And we also know something else. This is not some favor that we do for Israel. This is something that is also in the interest of the United States of America, and it’s in the interest of countries surrounding Israel. (Applause.) A nuclear bomb for Iran would also threaten the stability of the region, indeed the entire world. It would produce an arms race among the surrounding countries. There is no way the world is safer anywhere in the world with a nuclear weapon in Iran, and we are not going to let it happen, period, end of story. (Applause.)

Now, to do that, to achieve this all-important goal, important for America’s security and for Israel’s security, it is crucial that we seizes what might be the last best chance to be able to have diplomacy work, and maybe the last chance for quite some time. Because the reality is only strong diplomacy can fully and permanently achieve the goal. Those who say strike and hit need to go look at exactly what happens after you’ve done that, whether that permanently eliminates the program or opens up all kinds of other possibilities, including Iran leaving the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, not even allowing IAEA inspectors in, not living under any international regimen. That’s a possibility. Only strong diplomacy can guarantee that a nuclear weapons program actually goes away for good instead of just going underground and becoming more dangerous. Only the exhaustion of diplomacy can justify more forceful options if you have to take them in the end.

So we say – President Obama and myself and others – we say let’s seize the diplomatic moment. And that’s what we are trying to do. And the truth is it is strong diplomacy that has actually made this moment possible. And we need to give it the space to work. We need to make sure that if this opportunity were to elude us, it is not because we are the ones that close the window.

Now, I understand the skepticism. I’ve been around this city for 29-plus years as a senator, became chairman of the foreign relations committee, worked with most of the members of your board and with AIPAC and others around the country, and proud to tell you that during that time I had a 100 percent voting record for Israel. (Applause.)

And I’m not coming here to stand up in front of you and tell you that I know that Iran is going to reach an agreement. I don’t know. I don’t know what they’ll do. I don’t know if they are able to make some of the tough decisions they’re going to have to make in the months ahead. But I know that if the United States is going to be able to look the world in the eye and say we have to do something, we have to have exhausted the possibilities available to us for that diplomatic peaceful resolution. Let me make it clear our approach is not Ronald Reagan’s and the Soviets –We’re not looking at this and saying trust, but verify. Our approach is a much more complex and dangerous world – it’s verify and verify. And that’s what we intend to do. (Applause.)

Now, there is very good reason for these sanctions to exist in the first place, and good reason that we have kept the architecture of these sanctions in place. And we continue to enforce it even as we negotiate a comprehensive agreement. In the last weeks, we have announced additional sanctions with respect to individuals who have been tempted to go around it or violate it. We have not changed one piece of the sanctions architecture. And yet we are able to negotiate. Our eyes, my friends, are wide open. This is not a process that is open-ended. This is not a process that is about trusting Tehran. This is about testing Tehran. And you can be sure that if Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel. That, I promise. (Applause.)

Now, we have taken no options off the table, but so far there is no question but that tough sanctions and strong diplomacy are already making Israel and America safer. The first step agreement, the first step agreement – it’s not an interim agreement, it’s a first step agreement – and the agreement that’s in force today didn’t just halt the advance of the Iranian nuclear program for the first time in a decade; it’s actually rolled it back. And we all remember how Prime Minister Netanyahu highlighted Iran’s 20 percent enriched uranium in the 2012 speech at the United Nations. Well, today Iran is reducing its stockpile of 20 percent uranium. And without the agreement in force today, the opposite would have been in effect. The stockpile would have grown even more dangerous, and the amount of breakout time that they have would have grown smaller. Because of the agreement, Iran will soon have to take its entire stock of 20 percent enriched uranium down to zero. Zero. Zero. (Applause.) You don’t have to be a math major to know that Israel is safer when Iran has zero uranium enriched to 20 percent, and that’s what we’ve achieved.

The same independent inspectors who also tell us that Iran has halted its advances on the heavy water reactor known as the Arak reactor, without the agreement in force today, we could not have stopped them making progress on the Arak heavy water reactor, plutonium reactor. Iran has also stopped enriching all uranium above 5 percent, and it has given inspectors daily access to the facilities at Natanz and at Fordow. You know Fordow, you’ve heard about it, that underground facility that was a secret for so long. We’ve never had people in it. But because of this first step agreement, we now have people inside Fordow every single day telling us what is happening. (Applause.)

None of these things would have happened without forceful diplomacy by the United States and our international partners. But now, my friends, we have to finish the job. Like I tell my staff, there aren’t any exit polls in foreign policy. It’s results that count, final results. And that means we have to let forceful diplomacy keep working in order to put this test to Iran.

Now, right now we are carefully – and I mean carefully – negotiating a comprehensive agreement. We are consulting with our friends in Israel constantly. The minute Under Secretary Wendy Sherman finished her last set of meetings in Vienna the other day, she went immediately to Israel, briefed thoroughly on the talks, then went to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and continued to brief and briefed our European partners.

You might be asking: If no deal is better than a bad deal, what does the United States consider a good deal? Well, you have my word – and the President’s – that the United States will only sign an agreement that answers three critical questions the right way. First, will it make certain that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? Second, can it continuously assure the world that Iran’s program remains entirely peaceful as it claims? And third, will the agreement increase our visibility on the nuclear program and expand the breakout time so that if they were to try to go for a bomb, we know we will have time to act?

Those are the tests. Those are our standards for any comprehensive agreement. It’s that simple. And those objectives, if they’re not met, then there won’t be an agreement. (Applause.) Now make no mistake, make no mistake; we can’t resolve the answer to those questions. It’s up to Iran. It’s up to Iran to prove to the world that its program is peaceful, and the world will hold Iran accountable.

Now, if it turns out that Iran cannot address the world’s concerns, I guarantee you it will face more pressure, Iran will face more pressure, more and more isolation. And Congress will introduce more tough sanctions. And let me assure you – I know Eric Cantor is here, sitting here – I assure you it’ll take about two hours to get it through the House and the Senate and it won’t be delayed and the Congress will have to do nothing more than schedule the vote, because President Obama and I fully support those sanctions under those circumstances. (Applause.)

In the meantime, as I said earlier, we are enforcing every letter of the existing sanctions. I have personally instructed every State Department bureau and mission around the world to watch vigilantly for any signs of the sanctions being skirted. And to any country that wants to trade with Iran with these sanctions firmly in place, the United States will tell them exactly what I have told foreign leaders in no uncertain terms: Iran is not open for business until Iran is closed for nuclear bombs. (Applause.)

Now, strong diplomacy is also essential to another threat to Israel’s security: ending the conflict with the Palestinians, and in doing so, preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of the state of Israel. (Applause.) I’ve had some folks ask me why I’m so committed to these negotiations and why I’m so convinced that peace is actually possible. And they ask, “Why does John Kerry go to Israel so often?” I think I heard Steny Hoyer say he’d been there 13 times, Eric Cantor who’s been there 12 times. I’ve been there more times than that just in the last nine months. (Laughter.) And I’ve been in the Middle East more times than even that in the last months because I don’t always wind up going to Israel.

But apart from the question, I’m surprised because people ask, because apart from my affection for Israel which dates back to my first visit back in 1986, and it just strikes me that it’s the wrong question to ask, why do I go. This isn’t about me. This is about the dreams of Israelis and the dignity of Palestinians. It’s about reconciling two peoples who want at long last to live normal secure lives in the land that they have fought over for so long. It’s about answering King David’s timeless call that we seek peace and pursue it. It’s about fulfilling the fervent prayer for peace that Jews around the world recite to welcome Shabbat. It’s about parents from Tsefat to Eilat who want to raise their families in a region that accepts the nation-state of the Jewish people is here to stay. (Applause.)

Now, it’s not news to any Israeli to hear me say that they live in a difficult neighborhood. Israelis know that better than anyone. No one needs to explain the importance of peace and security to a mother who has just sent her daughter to the army or a son who is waiting for his father to come home from another mission. No one knows the stakes of success or failure better than those who will inherit them for generations to come. And I have seen all of these realities in so many different ways in my travels in Israel, from the rocket casings in Sderot to the shelter in Kiryat Shmona that I visited years ago where children had to hide from Katyusha rockets. I’ve seen it.

My friends, I also believe that we are at a point in history that requires the United States as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power to do everything we can to help end this conflict once and for all. Now, that is why America – (applause) – that is why America helped bring the parties back to the table, where, let’s be honest, Israelis and Palestinians have difficult choices to make. And no one understands just how complex those choices are or how emotional they are better than the leaders who have to summon the courage in order to actually make them.

I have sat with Bibi Netanyahu for hours and hours and days and days. We have become good friends. (Applause.) I believe – in fact, he ought to be charging me rent. (Laughter.) I’ve seen up close and personally the grit and the guts of this man and his love of country. And I can tell you with absolute certainty and without question, Prime Minister Netanyahu has demonstrated his courage and his commitment in pursuit of peace with security. (Applause.) He knows that it is the only way for Israel to be a Jewish and democratic state; not a bi-national state. (Applause.)

As President Obama said publicly in the Oval Office today, and I quote him: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has approached these negotiations with a level of seriousness and commitment that reflects his leadership and the desire of the Israeli people for peace.”

Thus far, I will tell you also that President Abbas, and I know there are many doubters here – I’ve heard the arguments for 30-plus years, 40 years – that there’s no partner for peace, that Abbas won’t be there, that – both sides, by the way, say the same thing about each other. That’s one of the difficulties we have to try get through here. A very small needle to try to thread in terms of the trust deficit. Thus far, President Abbas, I will tell you, has demonstrated he wants to be a partner for peace. He’s committed to trying to end the conflict in all of its claims, but he obviously has a point of view about what’s fair and how he can do that. Let’s be candid. I know that some of you doubt that. But as Israeli security officials will attest, President Abbas has been genuinely committed against violence, and his own security forces have worked closely with Israel in order to prevent violence against Israeli citizens.

I’ve also spent many hours with President Abbas, and I believe that he clearly understands both the tremendous benefits of peace and the great costs of failure. He understands that in terms of his own people, his own grandchildren, the country he hopes to be able to lead, and in terms of the history that beleaguers all. He knows the Palestinian people will never experience the self determination that they seek in a state of their own without ending the conflict in a solution that delivers two states for two peoples. (Applause.)

And so does Prime Minister Netanyahu. When Bibi looks me in the eye and says, “I can’t accept a deal with Palestinians that doesn’t make the people of Israel safer,” we agree 100 percent. (Applause.) But I argue that there is a distinction between a unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon or from Gaza where nothing is resolved, and a phased withdrawal that is negotiated where everything is at least in an agreement resolved.

Now, I learned about Israel’s security on many different trips over there, but one stands out. I was – I’d been a pilot since I was in college and I was on a trip over there. I was having a luncheon at Ovda Airbase with the Israel Air Force. And the colonel who was in charge was – had flown. He was an ace from the Six-Day War. And we were having lunch at the time at Ovda and I had been badgering them to maybe let me go up and fly. And they disappeared at lunch and finally he comes back and he says, “Senator, I hope you don’t eat too much. We’re going flying.” I said, “Wow, great. This is what I’ve wanted.” And we went out, the two of us, drove out to this jet, and he trusted me. We put on our helmets, got in the jet, and he says, “The moment we’re off the ground, it’s your airplane.”

So literally, we took off, I take the stick, we go up, we’re flying around. Next thing I know in my ear he says, “Senator, you better turn faster. You’re going over Egypt.” (Laughter.) So I turned very fast and then I asked him if I could do some aerobatics over the Negev. And I turned upside down and did a big loop and I was coming down, I was looking upside-down, and I said to myself, “This is perfect.” I could see all of the Sinai. I could see Aqaba. I could see Jordan. I see all of Israel below me, each side to each side. Said, “This is the perfect way to see the Middle East upside-down and backwards.” I understand it. (Applause.)

The real point of this story is just to tell you that I can’t tell you the imprint on me, being up there and tiny – almost turning. You had barely space to turn. You get the sense of a missile from here, or a rocket from there, or the threat of war. You understand it’s impossible to ignore just how narrow those borders are, how vulnerable Israel can be, and why Israel’s security is our first priority. We understand that. (Applause.)

That is why, my friends, President Obama sent a four-star general, John Allen, one of the most respected minds in United States military to do something we’ve never done in all the history of administrations negotiating for Israel’s and Palestinians’ future and that is to work with Israelis and Jordanians and Palestinians to make the Jordan River border as strong as the strongest borders on Earth. That’s what makes this effort different from anything we’ve ever done before. With the combination of the best military experience America can offer and the best ideas in the Pentagon and the best technology that we could deliver, we believe we can deliver to Israel security that Israel needs in order to make peace, and President Obama is committed to doing that.

Now we have no illusions. We saw what happened after Israel withdrew unilaterally from Gaza and Lebanon. We all learned lessons from that, I hope. That’s why a negotiated agreement is so important. That’s why the security arrangements that we are helping to design will need to be operationally proven. We’re not doing this on a whim and a prayer. We will never let the West Bank turn into another Gaza. (Applause.)

My friends, we understand that Israel has to be strong in order to make peace. But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger. Any peace agreement must also guarantee Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. (Applause.) As Ehud Barak said on this stage last year, a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to stay true to its founding principles – to remain both Jewish and democratic. At last year’s AIPAC conference, he said statehood is not a favor for the Palestinians, and let me reaffirm: He is right; it is not.

Israel also needs peace in order to create greater prosperity. All of you here know the great economic benefits of peace. All of you have already seen what Israel has already been able to build with the forces of the region that raid against it. Just imagine what it will be able to build as a result of peace with Palestinian neighbors. I’ve had the foreign minister of one of the surrounding countries – a very wealthy country and a very smart foreign minister say to me if we make peace – this is under the Arab Peace Initiative and the Arab Follow-on Committee that is following everything we’re doing very closely and supporting it – and they said if we make peace, Israel will trade more in this community within a few years than it trades with Europe today. That’s what we have available to us. (Applause.) And I believe that we need to stand together with a single voice to reject any of the arbitrary unwarranted boycotts of Israel. For more than 30 years, I have staunchly, loudly, unapologetically opposed boycotts of Israel – (applause) – and I will continue to oppose those boycotts of Israel. That will never change. (Applause.)

Every time that Israel is subjected to attacks on its legitimacy, whether at the United Nations or from any nation, the United States will use every tool we have to defeat those efforts and we will stand with Israel. (Applause.)

Finally, peace demands that Israel fulfill its destiny not just as a nation but also as a neighbor. And that begins with the Palestinians, and it extends to the entire Arab League whose Arab Peace Initiative can open the door to peace and normalized relations with 20 additional Arab countries and a total of 55 Muslim countries. The upheaval in the Middle East has shown us all that Arabs and Israelis share some of the very same security concerns. Without the Palestinian conflict to divide them, these common interests can grow into real relationships and transform Israel’s standing in the region. And I just invite you – I promise you these conversations take place. I’ve had them throughout the Gulf region, throughout the Middle East, where increasingly those countries begin to see the possibilities of mutual security interests coming together for all of them against an Iran, against terrorism, against religious extremism. This is a commonality that is a new thread in the region, and I believe it brings the potential of new possibilities.

It is also important to remember that ending the conflict means ending the incitement. President Abbas has called incitement a germ that must be removed. And he has sought our help in order to try to deal with the problem. And I can tell you that with any final agreement it will also include a larger endeavor in order to help people on both sides move beyond a painful past and promote a culture of peace and tolerance.

After all these years, my friends, it is really no mystery what the end-game really looks like. I think you know that in your hearts. We understand what the end-game is. I know what peace looks like. When I talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu and others, I think everybody shares this because this is not new. After Camp David and Oslo and Wye and Annapolis and Taba and all of these efforts, what the end-game should look like is straightforward: security arrangements that leave Israelis more secure, not less; mutual recognition of the nation-state of the Jewish people and the nation-state of the Palestinian people; an end to the conflict and to all claims; a just and agreed solution for Palestinian refugees, one that does not diminish the Jewish character of the state of Israel; and a resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name as the City of Peace. (Applause.)

It will take hard work. I’m not pretending any of the answers – these are all narrative issues. They’re tough issues. They complicated. But there is a vision of peace, and it takes tough choices on both sides, especially over the coming days. I guarantee you that America, that President Obama and this Administration will be there every day of the week, every step of the way. And we will stand with Israel’s leaders today and with the leaders of the future. And we will ensure that our light shines not just throughout the nations, but throughout the generations.

Leaders like a fellow named Guy – I’ll leave his last name out – but he’s a young Israeli who took part in an exchange program with the State Department, sponsors that brings Israelis and Palestinians together to talk about their histories and their hopes. Guy’s grandparents fled Europe. He was born and raised in Jerusalem. He served in the IDF. And he worked as an entrepreneur in Israel’s booming tech industry. And this is what he said in that program: We respect our past, but we don’t want to live it. We are young enough to dream, to believe that change is possible, and that fear can be defeated.

I think Guy is right. Change is possible. Fear can be defeated. But those are choices we have to make now.

My friends, a few months ago I landed in Tel Aviv and it was the 18th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. I went straight to Kikar Rabin, and I stood with the late-prime minister’s daughter, Dalia, at the site of her father’s murder. And we stood just steps away from where the great general, in the last moments of his life, sang the famous lyrics of Shir LaShalom: Don’t whisper a prayer; sing a song of peace in a loud voice. Don’t say the day will come; bring that day. (Applause.) That is our mission. All of us, in whatever capacity that we can, but just as important our mission is also to raise our voices for peace, and we also need to listen. We have to listen to those who first gave voice to our values, voices that still echo thousands of years later.

He almost – I think it was the first time I went to Israel. I spent a week there and went all over the country and like many first-time visitors, I climbed Masada. I climbed it with a guide – some of you may know him or heard of him, a fellow by the name of Yadin Roman. Yadin, the publisher of Eretz Israel. And our group debated Josephus Flavius’s account of what happened on the top of that mountain, the account of what happened 2,000 years before we were there.

Then Yadin, after we’d had this long debate, made us all vote to determine did it happen as he recounted or was it different. And we all voted unanimously it did happen the way he recounted. He told us to then walk to the edge of the precipice which we did, and to look out across the chasm and to shout, to shout across the ancestral home of the Jewish people. And as we stood where every new Israeli soldier begins his or her service, by swearing an oath to honor that history and secure the future, Yadin instructed us to shout, all at the same time, “Am Yisrael chai.” We shouted. (Applause.) And then I have to tell you, echoing across the chasm in the most eerie and unbelievably unforgettable way were these haunting echoes of “Am Yisrael chai, Am Yisrael chai, chai, chai.” I’ll never forget hearing the echo of those words bouncing off that mountain. It was literally like we were hearing the voices of the souls of those who had perished sacrificing their lives for Israel a thousand years ago. And we were affirming those words, the state of Israel lives. The people of Israel live.

We have to listen to those voices. Those long ago who encouraged us to build a city on a hill to be a light unto the nations, an example to the world, to ensure Israel’s survival. And we have to listen to the voices of young people whose futures depend on the choices that we, the leaders of today, make. It’s for their future that we will give new strength to the U.S.-Israel partnership as AIPAC does like no other organization in our country. It’s for their future that we will come together giving greater voice to the timeless oath and we will remember forever those words and be driven by them: “Am Yisrael chai” will be said generations upon generations into the future because of the work you do and the work we will do together.

Thank you all very much. Honored to be with you. (Applause.)

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