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

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 3, 2014: Senator John McCain Remarks at 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Senator McCain Remarks at AIPAC Conference

Source: C-SPAN, 3-3-14

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) spoke at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference…..READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 3, 2014: Senator John McCain’s Speech / Remarks at AIPAC Conference

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Senator McCain Remarks at AIPAC Conference

Source: C-SPAN, 3-3-14

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) spoke at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference…..READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 5, 2013: AIPAC heads to the Hill: The diplomacy trap

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

AIPAC heads to the Hill: The diplomacy trap

Source: Washington Post (blog), 3-5-13

In concluding the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference Tuesday, executive director Howard Kohr announced that committee representatives would call upon every Senate and House member….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: VP Joe Biden & PM Benjamin Netanyahu Stress Points of Unity in Speeches at AIPAC 2013

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Biden and Netanyahu Stress Points of Unity in Speeches to Pro-Israel Group

Source: NYT, 3-4-13

Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., right, with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference in Washington on Monday.

The thundering ovations, slickly produced videos and legions of lawmakers were the same as ever. But something was missing as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convened here this week for its annual conference: tension….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

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Text of Leader Cantor’s AIPAC Speech

Source: Newsroom America Feeds, 3-4-13

Thank you, it is an honor to be here at AIPAC’s policy conference. And, it’s an honor to be here with my good friend, one of Congress’ strongest pro-Israel allies Steny Hoyer.

Tonight, we celebrate a friendship between two countries. Simple in concept, but mighty in force. This friendship is centered on commitment to community and dedication to faith. It values education, human progress, and the guarantee of opportunity for all. With this friendship, the world is a better place.

The alliance between the United States and Israel is often tested, but never shaken. We’ve helped protect each other. We’ve help protect our friends, and we’ve helped protect humanity.

If there is a tsunami, our military and aid ships are the first to set sail. If disease is ravaging a nation, or as is the case of AIDS in Africa, an entire continent, we send help. And we save lives. Israel shares our moral compass. When massive earthquakes struck Haiti and Turkey, Israel was among the first to offer assistance. And hundreds of Israeli rescue workers responded to the deadly terrorist attacks in East Africa, saving the lives of Africans injured in the attacks on America’s embassies.

For those of us who have visited Israel, you know what a special place it is. You have walked down the Tayelet in Tel Aviv on a Thursday afternoon and you’ve seen the people leisurely lingering in cafes as the waves of the Mediterranean crash in the background.

But for many Americans, the only images of Israel that they see are of blown out clubs and cafes, missiles firing, death and tragedy. That in itself is a tragedy.

These news stories often miss the beauty and the human element of why our nations care so much for one another. But, these stories do serve as a constant reminder of the threat Israel faces, and why Israel needs our friendship.

Asher Afriat needs no reminders. Asher is a friend to many of us, and he’s here tonight. He owns a travel company in Israel, and leads many of the AIPAC tours. Several months ago, when rockets were flying over Israel, Asher sent me an email. He was up early in Tel Aviv, on his way to pick up some tourists. He saw some young reservists with packed military bags waiting to be picked up. He yearned to drop everything and jump in the truck with them. As he drove, his favorite radio station was interrupted by Code Red Alerts.

“A somber mood took over,” he wrote. But a few minutes later, Asher passed the entrance to the Ben Shimon Forest, a magnet for mountain bikers from across the country and one of his favorite riding places. The parking lot was jam packed with cars and hundreds of bikers ready to “shred” the countryside. Despite rockets flying, they all came. Asher could barely stand the urge to pull over and get his own bike out. But he pressed on, now with a big smile on his face. In his email he observed: “How surreal is this moment, how incomprehensible is the reality we live in”

Yet for me, that moment of Asher’s reflected the true essence of Israel with all its pain and beauty.

We are here together tonight, people of all faiths to support Israel and the US-Israel relationship. So, to all our Christian brothers and sisters who are with us, we salute you and we thank you for standing with Israel.

Thank you for standing with us to defend the gift that is Israel. Israel is a gift to all free loving people around the world. The Jewish people know and realize this gift better than anyone. The creation of the modern state of Israel had a special effect on what it means to be a Jew. Before 1948, we Jews often had difficulty defining ourselves publicly, and instead we were defined by stereotypes.

The craven hook nose man counting money behind closed doors. Secretive. Untrustworthy. The caricatures were ugly, and unfortunately some still linger.

But after Israel was created, people around the world began to see something else. They saw farmers, and warriors, and creative souls. They saw innovators, scientists and chemists giving back to the world and saving lives. The survival of Israel and what it says about its Jewish and Arab citizens is a bulwark against ever returning to the days of being the eternal outsider – the wandering Jew.

Throughout my entire political life, I have never known a time where I have questioned America’s resolve and support for Israel. I have never questioned America’s historic support for the little guy against the bully. I have never questioned the role we play as protectors of liberty and defenders of justice. Until now.

It is only recently where I have begun to worry. I worry that some of our nation’s leaders are complacent. I worry that some in Washington think we must retreat to our domestic politics and reduce focus overseas. I worry that in the pursuit of comity with Israel’s foes, some will seek distance. I worry that they indeed overlook the gift that is Israel.

And I worry that Israelis worry. And these worries are not unfounded. Israel’s under attack.

A while back, I received a briefing in Israel from one of the engineers of the Iron Dome system. His name was Avi Sacher. Avi’s presentation was impressive. He demonstrated through slides and video the precision and agility of the anti-rocket defense system.

Avi beamed with pride as he explained how countless lives were saved by the Iron Dome technology. How families were spared despite deadly rockets aimed at their home, and how mothers were relieved to see their children safe while sirens wailed at terrorists’ rockets overhead.

Five days later, still in Israel, I met with Avi again. His enthusiasm was gone and there was pain in his eyes. He spoke with great emotion as he told us of the one rocket that had gotten through. It somehow slipped past the defense system, hitting the town of Be’er Sheva, and killing an innocent Israeli. He was tortured by that experience. And Avi went back to work, determined to perfect the system that had already saved countless lives.

The importance of the Iron Dome’s capability was driven home again recently during the conflict in Gaza. The Iron Dome has to be right 100 percent of the time, or Israelis die.

As important as they are, defensive systems like Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and the Arrow are not panaceas. True peace will require an end to Iranian backed weapons smuggled into Gaza. It will also require a recognition by Hamas and the Palestinians that violence does not help, but hurts their cause. Only when Palestinians lay down their arms, can we hope to achieve peace.

My message to you tonight is this: Our enemies know that if they divide the United States from Israel, they will defeat Israel. And they will be one step closer to defeating America. That is their goal. That is their mission. And we must not ever, ever let them succeed.

Three weeks from tonight, we will be sitting down with our families to celebrate Passover, and the words we will read from the Haggadah seem as relevant today as ever – “In every generation, they rise against us to destroy us.”

Just listen to President Ahmadinejad or Ayatollah Khamenei speak anywhere at any time and their intentions are clear. Iran is a direct and immediate threat to Israel, to our allies in the region and to the civilized world. But, some in Washington hold the view that Iran is all bluster. That Iran can be contained and negotiated with. But that impression is wrong.

We need to be clear-eyed that the nuclear talks with Iran cannot be unending, and that they may fail. We need to recognize that military action against Iran may become necessary to protect America, Israel and our allies.

America must be prepared to lead from the front. And the challenge should not be Israel’s alone to bear.

In Syria, tens of thousands of people have been brutally and relentlessly slaughtered by an evil dictator intent on massacring his people. Our hearts ache as we see mass graves, all too familiar to us Jews.

But, Syria is not just a moral challenge, it’s a strategic challenge.

The United States cannot and should not stand aside and let the chips fall where they may. We’ve got to be on the side of those looking to end Assad’s tyranny.

We cannot guarantee that those who succeed him will be greater friends to our nation or Israel, anymore than Assad was. But without action, we can guarantee that more innocent lives will be lost. We will have failed to shape the outcome of this conflict. And we will guarantee that Syria’s future leaders will not have known the helping hand of America when the Syrian people so desperately needed help.

Beyond just Syria, the entire Middle East is in an epic state of political transition and uncertainty. The stakes could not be higher. When there is no American leadership; there is no leadership.

Bottom line, Israel’s security goes hand in hand with America’s security. And, America’s security depends on freedom and democracy growing and open societies hearing our message. America’s security depends on putting a stop to the bullying on the world playground.

To all of you here tonight at AIPAC, the future depends on your voice. It must be heard on Capitol Hill and it must be heard by this Administration. It must be heard around the world.

We must now and forever stand with Israel, or we risk losing the great promise of America.

Thank you.

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: Bill introduced to make Israel ‘major strategic ally’

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Bill introduced to make Israel ‘major strategic ally’

Source: JTA, 3-4-13

“We need to recognize that military action against Iran may become necessary to protect America, Israel and our allies,” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the U.S. House of Representatives majority leader, said in his address Monday night to the AIPAC conference….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

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Hoyer Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference

Source: Southern Maryland News Net, 3-4-13

“We gather tonight recognizing that Israel’s existence is testimony that faith and courage can triumph even in a cauldron of enmity, terror, and constant threat.

“Israel’s history is that of a courageous people’s perseverance against injustice from one generation to the next. It is a history Americans understand and look to for inspiration.

“The State of Israel, though besieged by forces of hatred, intolerance, and extremism, has never abandoned its founding principles nor lost sight of its historic mission – to provide freedom and sanctuary in a democracy for the Jewish people in their ancient homeland.

“Some of my proudest moments as a Member of Congress were working with many of you to help Soviet Jews emigrate from behind the Iron Curtain to reach that freedom and security in the land of their ancestors.

“In January, we lost a dear friend and a passionate advocate in Ambassador Max Kampelman, who was instrumental in that effort. I was Chairman of the Helsinki Commission at the time, and Max was leading the negotiations with the Soviet Union on arms reduction and human rights.

“Max may no longer be with us, but his legacy of linking human rights to international security is a practice that can serve us well today. The safety and prosperity of democracies such as Israel, which promote freedom and individual rights, advance America’s national security interests.

“Today, we continue to fight for what Israel represents: an outpost of freedom in a region where democracy struggles to take hold with no guarantee of success. From Tahrir to Tripoli, from Aden to Aleppo, America and Israel will remain vigilant and work to ensure that legitimate yearnings for democracy are not hijacked by extremists.

“And nowhere must we be more united and vigilant than when facing the threat posed by Iran. The stakes have never been higher.
“If there is one lesson we have learned about the Middle East in recent years, it is that nuance is not only not effective but can be dangerous. We must speak with unambiguous clarity: the United States will not accept a nuclear-weapons-capable Iran. They must know our clear intent and firm commitment. America and Israel cannot leave any uncertainty in the minds of those who describe us as their common foes.

“Let there be no doubt that it is in America’s direct interest to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran would set off an arms race in the region, pose a clear and present danger to American troops stationed in the Middle East and Europe, and threaten Israel’s very existence.

“As nuclear talks with Iran continue, still without result, Iran’s leaders must understand that these talks cannot go on indefinitely. Let me repeat this point, because it is critically important: the day will come when diplomacy ends. And Iran’s leaders will ultimately decide whether it is because they have willingly dismantled their nuclear weapons program or whether they have compelled the free world to do it for them.

“The threat from Iran comes not only from its nuclear ambitions but from its long history of state-sponsored terrorism across the globe. A nuclear-armed Iran would be even more aggressive in sponsoring its deadly agents of terror – Hamas and Hezbollah – and proliferating its weapons of mass destruction.

“There are some who say that Hamas and Hezbollah are simply politicians. Make no mistake: they are terrorists.

“Those in Europe who think differently ought to listen to the defense of one Hezbollah agent who was arrested in Cyprus scouting areas frequented by Israelis. He said – and I quote: ‘I was just collecting information about Jews. This is what my organization is doing everywhere around the world.’

“The threat Hamas and Hezbollah pose to Israel and to the Jewish people is chillingly clear.

“And so, like any sovereign nation, it is Israel’s right to take such steps as are necessary to defend itself and its people. It is not only international norms that give Israel that right but the hard lessons of Jewish history.

“As my friend Eric Cantor said earlier – later this month, Jews in America and throughout the world will open the Passover Haggadah and remember that history with these perennial words: ‘In every generation there are those who have risen against us.’ And the sentence continues: ‘but the Holy One saves us from their hands.’

“Doing so is not only the work of God but for our generation, which must continue to strengthen and fortify the relationship between Israel and America.

“Thanks to the work AIPAC performs on Capitol Hill and around the country, Congress’s support for Israel has endured and grown stronger each year. The bipartisan nature of Congress’s support makes it ever more clear to those who would do the Jewish State harm that Israel is here to stay – and will never, never stand alone.

“One direct result of America’s commitment to Israel’s security is Iron Dome. I hope you will join me in thanking again the operators of Iron Dome for protecting Israel’s border communities.

“But America’s ties with Israel run far deeper than matters of security and statecraft. The United States, a young nation, and Israel, heir to an ancient birthright, were founded on the same values. These are the principles of human dignity and basic justice first laid out in the Torah and embraced by America’s Founders. A line connects the wisdom of our shared scripture to the hearts and minds of those who wrote the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and our Bill of Rights.

“Jewish history is and always will be intertwined with American history. And from helping to draw back an Iron Curtain to constructing an Iron Dome, it has been the privilege of my life to work with you to shape that history.

“And, with clarity in our common cause, with the courage to pursue our common commitment, we must face our shared challenges with an iron resolve. Such is AIPAC’s legacy and our enduring mission: to ensure the survival and success of Israel – and the safety and security of its people – in our generation and for every generation yet to come.

Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn Praises Israeli Democracy in Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

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At AIPAC Conference, Senate Minority Whip Praises Israeli Democracy

Source: Algemeiner, 3-3-13

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference on Sunday…..

The fact that Israel, as a democracy unlike its Arab neighbors, “remains a country where Arabs can serve in parliament” and heckle the prime minister is at the heart of why an “overwhelming bipartisan consensus” is maintained in Congress in favor of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, in contrast to the “political football” played with other issues, according to Cornyn. Americans feel a “special kinship” with Israel because of shared values such as liberty and human rights, he said….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: Sen. John McCain delivers harsh critique of Obama foreign policy at AIPAC, says U.S. concessions to Iran “doomed to failure”

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McCain delivers harsh critique of Obama foreign policy at AIPAC, says U.S. concessions to Iran “doomed to failure”

John McCain

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered a sobering view of the present situation in the Middle East along with a harsh critique of the Obama administration’s foreign policy strategy at this morning’s Foreign Policy Roundtable at American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington, D.C….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: What’s missing from this year’s AIPAC conference?

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What’s missing from this year’s AIPAC conference?

Source: JTA, 3-4-13

This week’s annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington may be as notable for what – and who – is missing as what’s planned….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013 Via Satellite

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Full Text of Netanyahu Speech to AIPAC 2013

Source: Algemeiner, 3-4-13

The following is the full text of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 4th speech at the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference.

“Thank you, Lee.  And thank you Howard, Michael, Robert and all the leadership of AIPAC.

Thank you for everything you do to strengthen the great alliance between Israel and America.

Let me say a special hello to my friend, Vice President Biden, who just spoke. Thank you, Joe, for your steadfast support for Israel over so many decades. I also want to recognize Ambassador Oren and Ambassador Prosor. Michael and Ron, Thank you both for your terrific service to Israel. Finally, I want to thank all of you who have come from far and wide to be there today to express your support for Israel.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I was hoping to speak to you in person.  But unfortunately, I had to stay in Israel to do something much more enjoyable – put together a coalition government. What fun!

If I can offer a free piece of advice – Don’t adopt Israel’s system of government.

You know, every system has its plusses and minuses.  But believe me, it’s a lot easier finding common ground between two parties than it is finding common ground among ten parties.

Despite the difficulties, I intend to form a strong and stable government in the days ahead.

The first thing that my new government will have the privilege to do is to warmly welcome President Obama to Israel

.

I look forward to President Obama’s visit. It will give me and the people of Israel the opportunity to express our appreciation for what he has done for Israel. The President and I agreed to focus our discussions on three issues: First, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; Second, the deteriorating situation in Syria;  Third, the need to find a responsible way to advance peace with the Palestinians.

On the first point: Iran has made it clear that it will continue to defy the will of the international community. Time after time, the world powers have tabled diplomatic proposals to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. But diplomacy has not worked. Iran ignores these offers. It is running out the clock. It has used negotiations to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program.

Thus far, the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program either. The sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard. But Iran’s leaders  grit their teeth and move forward. Iran enriches more and more uranium.  It installs faster and faster centrifuges Iran has still not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September.  But they are getting closer and closer to that line.

And they are putting themselves in a position to cross that line very quickly once they decide to do so.

Ladies and Gentlemen, To prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow Iran to cross that line. We must stop its nuclear enrichment program before it will be too late.  Words alone will not stop Iran.  Sanctions alone will not stop Iran.  Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail. I deeply appreciate something that President Obama has said repeatedly. And you’ve just heard Vice President Biden say it again. Israel must always be able to defend itself by itself against any threat to its existence. The Jewish people know the cost of being defenseless against those who would exterminate us.We will never let that happen again. Joe Biden described his meeting with Golda Meir. Well, we have our place under the sun. And ladies and gentlemen, we shall defend it.

The second issue I intend to discuss with President Obama is the situation in Syria. Over 70,000 Syrians have been killed. Hundreds of thousands have been wounded. Millions have been forced to flee their homes. Besides this humanitarian crisis, Syria could soon become a strategic crisis of monumental proportions. Syria is a very poor country. But it has chemical weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, and many other of the world’s most deadly and sophisticated arms.

As the Syrian regime collapses, the danger of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups is very real. Terror groups such as Hezbollah and Al Qaeda are trying to seize these weapons. They are like hyenas feeding off a carcass — and the carcass is not even dead. These terror groups are committed to Israel’s destruction. They have repeatedly attacked the United States. They are global terrorist organizations that can perpetrate attacks anywhere in the world.

That is why we have a common interest in preventing them from obtaining these weapons.

I know that here too President Obama fully appreciates Israel’s need to defend itself.

And I look forward to discussing with him ways to address this challenge to our common security.

The third issue I intend to discuss with President Obama is our common quest for peace.

Israel seeks a peace with our Palestinian neighbors that will end our conflict once and for all.

That peace must be grounded in reality. And it must be grounded in security. Israel withdrew from Lebanon. We withdrew from Gaza. We gave up territory.  We got terror. We cannot allow that to happen a third time. Israel is prepared for a meaningful compromise. But as Israel’s Prime Minister, I will never compromise on our security. We must work to find a realistic path forward — a measured step-by -step process in which we advance to a verifiable, durable and defensible peace.

I look forward to  discussing all these issues with President Obama when he comes here later this month.

But in addition, I’ll have a chance to show President Obama a different side of Israel.  Israel that has become a technological marvel teeming with innovation. Israel that each day pushes the boundaries of medicine and science to the ends of human imagination. Israel that has one of the world’s most vibrant cultures and one of the world’s most dynamic peoples.  Israel, the modern Jewish state living in the ancient Jewish homeland — an oasis of liberty and progress in the heart of the Middle East where these ideas have yet to take root.  That is the Israel that all of you know.

That is the Israel that all of you love.  And that is the Israel that will never stop standing shoulder to shoulder with the country that has been the greatest force for good that the world has ever known –  the United States of America.

God bless America. God bless Israel, and God bless the American-Israeli alliance. God bless you all. Thank you.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: Vice President Joe Biden’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013 — Discusses President Obama’s Position on Iran & Nuclear Weapons

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Full text of Biden’s speech at AIPAC policy conference

Source: Haaretz, 3-4-13

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses convention held by pro-Israel lobby group; says President Obama is not bluffing on stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2013

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden addresses the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2013 Policy Conference, March 4, 2013, in Washington. Photo by AP

Remarks by the Vice President to the AIPAC Policy Conference

Source: WH, 3-4-13 

Walter E. Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

10:35 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mr. President.  (Applause.)  It’s great to be here.  It’s great to be here.  (Applause.)  Hey, Debbie.

Ladies and gentlemen, oh, what a difference 40 years makes.  (Laughter.)  I look out there and see an old friend, Annette Lantos.  Annette, how are you?  Her husband, Tom Lantos, a survivor, was my assistant, was my foreign policy advisor for years.  And Tom used to say all the time, Joe — he talked with that Hungarian accent — he’d say, Joe, we must do another fundraiser for AIPAC.  (Laughter.)  I did more fundraisers for AIPAC in the ‘70s and early ‘80s than — just about as many as anybody.  Thank God you weren’t putting on shows like this, we would have never made it.  (Laughter.)  We would have never made it.

My Lord, it’s so great to be with you all and great to see — Mr. President, thank you so much for that kind introduction.  And President-elect Bob Cohen, the entire AIPAC Board of Directors, I’m delighted to be with you today.  But I’m particularly delighted to be with an old friend — and he is an old friend; we use that phrase lightly in Washington, but it’s real, and I think he’d even tell you — Ehud Barak, it’s great to be with you, Mr. Minister.  Great to be with you.  (Applause.)

There is a standup guy.  There is a standup guy.  Standing up for his country, putting his life on the line for his country, and continuing to defend the values that we all share.  (Applause.)  I’m a fan of the man.  (Applause.)  Thanks for being here, Ehud.  It’s good to be with you again.

Ladies and gentlemen, a lot of you know me if you’re old enough.  (Laughter.)  Some of you don’t know me, and understand I can’t see now, but in the bleachers to either side, I’m told you have 2,000 young AIPAC members here.  (Applause.)  We talked about this a lot over the years.  We talked about it a lot:  This is the lifeblood.  This is the connective tissue.  This is the reason why no American will ever forget.  You’ve got to keep raising them.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve stood shoulder to shoulder, a lot of us in this auditorium, defending the legitimate interest of Israel and our enduring commitment over the last 40 years.  And many of you in this hall — I won’t start to name them, but many of you in this hall, starting with Annette Lantos’s husband, who is not here, God rest his soul — many of you in this hall have been my teachers, my mentors and my educators, and that is not hyperbole.  You literally have been.

But my education started, as some of you know, at my father’s dinner table.  My father was what you would have called a righteous Christian.  We gathered at my dinner table to have conversation, and incidentally eat, as we were growing up.  It was a table — it was at that table I first heard the phrase that is overused sometimes today, but in a sense not used meaningfully enough — first I heard the phrase, “Never again.”

It was at that table that I learned that the only way to ensure that it could never happen again was the establishment and the existence of a secure, Jewish state of Israel.  (Applause.)  I remember my father, a Christian, being baffled at the debate taking place at the end of World War II talking about it.  I don’t remember it at that time, but about how there could be a debate about whether or not — within the community, of whether or not to establish the State of Israel.

My father would say, were he a Jew, he would never, never entrust the security of his people to any individual nation, no matter how good and how noble it was, like the United States.  (Applause.)  Everybody knows it’s real.  But I want you to know one thing, which some of you — I’ve met with a lot of you over the last 40 years, but the last four years as well.  President Obama shares my commitment.  We both know that Israel faces new threats, new pressures and uncertainty.  The Defense Minister and I have discussed it often.  In the area of national security, the threats to Israel’s existence continue, but they have changed as the world and the region have changed over the last decade.

The Arab Spring, at once full of both hope and uncertainty, has required Israel — and the United States — to reassess old and settled relationships.  Iran’s dangerous nuclear weapons program, and its continued support of terrorist organizations, like Hezbollah and Hamas, not only endanger Israel, but endanger the world.  (Applause.)  Attempts of much of the world to isolate and delegitimize the State of Israel are increasingly common, and taken as the norm in other parts of the world.

All these pressures are similar but different, and they put enormous pressure on the State of Israel.  We understand that.  And we especially understand that if we make a mistake, it’s not a threat to our existence.  But if Israel makes a mistake, it could be a threat to its very existence.  (Applause.)  And that’s why, from the moment the President took office, he has acted swiftly and decisively to make clear to the whole world and to Israel that even as circumstances have changed, one thing has not:  our deep commitment to the security of the state of Israel.  That has not changed.  That will not change as long as I and he are President and Vice President of the United States.  (Applause.)  It’s in our naked self-interest, beyond the moral imperative.  (Applause.)

And to all of you, I thank you for continuing to remind the nation and the world of that commitment.  And while we may not always agree on tactics — and I’ve been around a long time; I’ve been there for a lot of prime ministers — we’ve always disagreed on tactic.  We’ve always disagreed at some point or another on tactic.  But, ladies and gentlemen, we have never disagreed on the strategic imperative that Israel must be able to protect its own, must be able to do it on its own, and we must always stand with Israel to be sure that can happen.  And we will.  (Applause.)

That’s why we’ve worked so hard to make sure Israel keeps its qualitative edge in the midst of the Great Recession.  I’ve served with eight Presidents of the United States of America, and I can assure you, unequivocally, no President has done as much to physically secure the State of Israel as President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

President Obama last year requested $3.1 billion in military assistance for Israel — the most in history.  He has directed close coordination, strategically and operationally, between our government and our Israeli partners, including our political, military and intelligence leadership.

I can say with certitude, in the last eight Presidents, I don’t know any time, Ehud, when there has been as many meetings, as much coordination, between our intelligence services and our military.  Matter of fact, they’re getting tired of traveling back across the ocean, I think.  (Laughter.)

Under this administration, we’ve held the most regular and largest-ever joint military exercises.  We’ve invested $275 million in Iron Dome, including $70 million that the President directed to be spent last year on an urgent basis — to increase the production of Iron Dome batteries and interceptors.  (Applause.)

Not long ago, I would have had to describe to an audience what Iron Dome was, how it would work, why funding it mattered.  I don’t have to explain to anybody anymore.  Everybody gets it.  (Applause.)  Everybody saw — the world saw firsthand why it was and remains so critical.

For too long, when those sirens blared in the streets of the cities bordering Gaza, the only defense had been a bomb shelter.  But late last year, Iron Dome made a difference.  When Hamas rockets rained on Israel, Iron Dome shot them out of the sky, intercepting nearly 400 rockets in November alone.  It was our unique partnership — Israel and the United States — that pioneered this technology and funded it.

And it is in that same spirit that we’re working with Israel to jointly develop new systems, called Arrow and David’s Sling, interceptors that can defeat long-range threats from Iran, Syria and Hezbollah — equally as urgent.  (Applause.)  And we are working to deploy a powerful new radar, networked with American early warning satellites, that could buy Israel valuable time in the event of an attack.  This is what we do.  This is what we do to ensure Israel can counter and defeat any threat from any corner.  (Applause.)

But that’s only the first piece of this equation.  Let me tell you — and I expect I share the view of many of you who have been involved with AIPAC for a long time.  Let me tell you what worries me the most today — what worries me more than at any time in the 40 years I’ve been engaged, and it is different than any time in my career.  And that is the wholesale, seemingly coordinated effort to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state.  That is the single most dangerous, pernicious change that has taken place, in my humble opinion, since I’ve been engaged.  (Applause.)

And, ladies and gentlemen, it matters.  It matters.  To put it bluntly, there is only one nation — only one nation in the world that has unequivocally, without hesitation and consistently confronted the efforts to delegitimize Israel.  At every point in our administration, at every juncture, we’ve stood up on the legitimacy — on behalf of legitimacy of the State of Israel.  President Obama has been a bulwark against those insidious efforts at every step of the way.

Wherever he goes in the world, he makes clear that although we want better relations with Muslim-majority countries, Israel’s legitimacy and our support for it is not a matter of debate.  There is no light.  It is not a matter of debate.  (Applause.)  It’s simple, and he means it:  It is not a matter of debated.  Don’t raise it with us.  Do not raise it with us.  It is not negotiable.  (Applause.)

As recently as last year, the only country on the United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against — I think it’s 36 countries, don’t hold me to the exact number — but the only country on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to vote against the establishment of a fact-finding mission on settlements was the United States of America.

We opposed the unilateral efforts of the Palestinian Authority to circumvent direct negotiations by pushing for statehood and multilateral organizations like UNESCO.  We stood strongly with Israel in its right to defend itself after the Goldstone Report was issued in 2009.  While the rest of the world, including some of our good friend, was prepared to embrace the report, we came out straightforwardly, expressed our concerns and with recommendations.

When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla in 2010, I was in Africa.  We spent a lot of time on the phone, Ehud and — the Defense Minister and I.  (Laughter.)  And Bibi and I spent a lot time on that phone with my interceding, going to the United Nations directly by telephone, speaking with the Secretary General, making sure that one thing was made clear, Israel had the right — had the right — to impose that blockade.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s why we refuse to attend events such as the 10th anniversary of the 2001 World Conference on Racism that shamefully equated Zionism with racism.  (Applause.)  That’s why we rejected anti-Semitic rhetoric from any corner and from leaders of any nation.  And that’s why I’m proud to say my friend, the new Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke out against the kind of language in Ankara just this Friday.  (Applause.)  By the way, he’s a good man.  You’re going to be happy with Kerry.

And it was in the strongest terms that we vigorously opposed the Palestinian bid for nonmember observer status in the General Assembly, and we will continue to oppose any effort to establish a state of Palestine through unilateral actions.

There is no shortcut to peace.  There is no shortcut to face-to-face negotiations.  There is no shortcut to guarantees made looking in the eyes of the other party.

Ladies and gentlemen, Israel’s own leaders currently understand the imperative of peace.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres — they’ve all called for a two-state solution and an absolute secure, democratic and Jewish State of Israel; to live side by side with an independent Palestinian state.  But it takes two to tango, and the rest of the Arab world has to get in the game.  (Applause.)

We are under no illusions about how difficult it will be to achieve.  Even some of you in the audience said, why do we even talk about it anymore?  Well, it’s going to require hard steps on both sides.  But it’s in all of our interests — Israel’s interest, the United States’ interest, the interest of the Palestinian people.  We all have a profound interest in peace.  To use an expression of a former President, Bill Clinton, we’ve got to get caught trying.  We’ve got to get caught trying.  (Applause.)

So we remain deeply engaged.  As President Obama has said, while there are those who question whether this goal may ever be reached, we make no apologies for continuing to pursue that goal, to pursue a better future.  And he’ll make that clear when he goes to Israel later this month.

We’re also mindful that pursuing a better future for Israel means helping Israel confront the myriads of threat it faces in the neighborhood.  It’s a tough neighborhood, and it starts with Iran.  It is not only in Israel’s interest — and everybody should understand — I know you understand this, but the world should — it’s not only in Israel’s interest that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, it’s in the interest of the United States of America.  It’s simple.  And, as a matter of fact, it’s in the interest of the entire world. (Applause.)

Iraq’s [sic] acquisition of a nuclear weapon not only would present an existential threat to Israel, it would present a threat to our allies and our partners — and to the United States.  And it would trigger an arms race — a nuclear arms race in the region, and make the world a whole lot less stable.

So we have a shared strategic commitment.  Let me make clear what that commitment is:  It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  Period.  (Applause.)  End of discussion.  Prevent — not contain — prevent.  (Applause.)

The President has flatly stated that.  And as many of you in this room have heard me say — and he always kids me about this; we’ll be in the security room — and I know that Debbie Wasserman Schultz knows this because she hears it — he always says, you know — he’ll turn to other people and say, as Joe would say, he’s — as Joe would say, big nations can’t bluff.  Well, big nations can’t bluff.  And Presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff.  And President Barack Obama is not bluffing.  He is not bluffing.  (Applause.)

We are not looking for war.  We are looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully, but all options, including military force, are on the table.  But as I made clear at the Munich Security Conference just last month, our strong preference, the world’s preference is for a diplomatic solution.  So while that window is closing, we believe there is still time and space to achieve the outcome.  We are in constant dialogue, sharing information with the Israeli military, the Israeli intelligence service, the Israeli political establishment at every level, and we’re taking all the steps required to get there.

But I want to make clear to you something.  If, God forbid,
the need to act occurs, it is critically important for the whole world to know we did everything in our power, we did everything that reasonably could have been expected to avoid any confrontation.  And that matters.  Because God forbid, if we have to act, it’s important that the rest of the world is with us.  (Applause.)  We have a united international community.  We have a united international community behind these unprecedented sanctions.

We have left Iran more isolated than ever.  When we came to office, as you remember — not because of the last administration, just a reality — Iran was on the ascendency in the region.  It is no longer on the ascendency.  The purpose of this pressure is not to punish.  It is to convince Iran to make good on its international obligations.  Put simply, we are sharpening a choice that the Iranian leadership has to make.  They can meet their obligations and give the international community ironclad confidence in the peaceful nature of their program, or they can continue down the path they’re on to further isolate and mounting pressure of the world.

But even preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon still leaves them a dangerous neighbor, particularly to Israel.  They are using terrorist proxies to spread violence in the region and beyond the region, putting Israelis, Americans, citizens of every continent in danger.  For too long, Hezbollah has tried to pose as nothing more than a political and social welfare group, while plotting against innocents in Eastern Europe — from Eastern Europe to East Africa; from Southeast Asia to South America.  We know what Israel knows:  Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.  Period.  (Applause.)  And we — and me — we are urging every nation in the world that we deal with — and we deal with them all — to start treating Hezbollah as such, and naming them as a terrorist organization.  (Applause.)

This isn’t just about a threat to Israel and the United States.  It’s about a global terrorist organization that has targeted people on several continents.  We’ll say and we’ll do our part to stop them.  And we ask the world to do the same.  That’s why we’ve been talking to our friends in Europe to forcefully declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.  This past month I’ve made the case to leading European heads of state, as Barack and Israelis know, together we have to continue to confront Hezbollah wherever it shows — sews the seeds of hatred and stands against the nations that sponsor campaigns of terror.

Ladies and gentlemen, the United States and Israel have a shared interest in Syria as well.  Assad has shown his father’s disregard for human life and dignity, engaging in brutal murder of his own citizens.  Our position on that tragedy could not be clearer:  Assad must go.  But we are not signing up for one murderous gang replacing another in Damascus.  (Applause.)

That’s why our focus is on supporting a legitimate opposition not only committed to a peaceful Syria but to a peaceful region.  That’s why we’re carefully vetting those to whom we provide assistance.  That’s why, while putting relentless pressure on Assad and sanctioning the pro-regime, Iranian-backed militia, we’ve also designated al-Nusra Front as a terrorist organization.

And because we recognize the great danger Assad’s chemical and biological arsenals pose to Israel and the United States, to the whole world, we’ve set a clear red line against the use of the transfer of the those weapons.  And we will work together to prevent this conflict and these horrific weapons from threatening Israel’s security.  And while we try to ensure an end to the dictatorship in Syria, we have supported and will support a genuine transition to Egyptian democracy.

We have no illusions — we know how difficult this will be and how difficult it is.  There’s been — obviously been a dramatic change in Egypt.  A lot of it has given us hope and a lot of it has given us pause, and a lot of it has caused fears in other quarters.

It’s not about us, but it profoundly affects us.  We need to be invested in Egypt’s success and stability.  The stable success of Egypt will translate into a stable region.  We’re not looking at what’s happening in Egypt through rose-colored glasses.  Again, our eyes are wide open.  We have no illusions about the challenges that we face, but we also know this:  There’s no legitimate alternative at this point to engagement.

Only through engagement — it’s only through engagement with Egypt that we can focus Egypt’s leaders on the need to repair international obligations — respect their international obligations, including and especially its peace treaty with Israel.  It’s only through active engagement that we can help ensure that Hamas does not re-arm through the Sinai and put the people of Israel at risk.  It’s only through engagement that we can concentrate Egypt’s government on the imperative of confronting the extremists.  And it’s only through engagement that we can encourage Egypt’s leaders to make reforms that will spark economic growth and stabilize the democratic process.  And it’s all tough, and there’s no certainty.  There’s no certainty about anything in the Arab Spring.

I expect President Obama to cover each of these issues in much greater detail.  I’ve learned one thing, as I was telling the President, I learned it’s never a good idea, Ehud, to steal the President’s thunder.  It’s never a good idea to say what he’s going to say the next day.  So I’m not going to go into any further detail on this.  (Laughter.)  But in much greater detail he will discuss this when he goes to Israel later this month, just before Passover begins.

I have to admit I’m a little jealous that he gets to be the one to say “this year in Jerusalem,” but I’m the Vice President.  I’m not the President.  (Applause.)  So I — when I told him that, I’m not sure he thought I was serious or not.  But anyway.  (Laughter.)

As will come as no surprise to you, the President and I not only are partners, we’ve become friends, and he and I have spoken at length about this trip.  And I can assure you he’s particularly looking forward to having a chance to hear directly from the people of Israel and beyond their political leaders, and particularly the younger generation of Israelis.  (Applause.)

And I must note just as I’m getting a chance to speak to 2,000 young, American Jews involved and committed to the state of Israel and the relationship with the United States, he’s as anxious to do what I got a chance to do when I was there last, Ehud with you, as you flew me along the line.  I got to go to Tel Aviv University to speak several thousand young Israelis.  The vibrancy, the optimism, the absolute commitment is contagious, and he’s looking forward to seeing it and feeling it and tasting it.

The President looks forward to having conversations about their hopes and their aspirations, about their astonishing world-leading technological achievements, about the future they envision for themselves and for their country, about how different the world they face is from the one their parents faced, even if many of the threats are the same.

These are really important conversations for the President to have and to hear and for them to hear.  These are critically important.  I get kidded, again to quote Debbie, she kids sometimes, everybody quotes — Democrat and Republican — quotes Tip O’Neill saying, all politics is local.  With all due respect, Lonny, I think that’s not right.  I think all politics is personal.  And I mean it:  All politics is personal.  And it’s building personal relationships and trust and exposure, talking to people that really matters, particularly in foreign policy.

So, ladies and gentlemen, let me end where I began, by reaffirming our commitment to the State of Israel.  It’s not only a longstanding, moral commitment, it’s a strategic commitment.  An independent Israel, secure in its own borders, recognized by the world is in the practical, strategic interests of the United States of America.  I used to say when I — Lonny was president — I used to say if there weren’t an Israel, we’d have to invent one.

Ladies and gentlemen, we also know that it’s critical to remind every generation of Americans — as you’re doing with your children here today, it’s critical to remind our children, my children, your children.  That’s why the first time I ever took the three of my children separately to Europe, the first place I took them was Dachau.  We flew to Munich and went to Dachau — the first thing we ever did as Annette will remember — because it’s important that all our children and grandchildren understand that this is a never-ending requirement.  The preservation of an independent Jewish state is the ultimate guarantor, it’s the only certain guarantor of freedom and security for the Jewish people in the world.  (Applause.)

That was most pointedly pointed out to me when I was a young senator making my first trip to Israel.  I had the great, great honor — and that is not hyperbole — of getting to meet for the first time — and subsequently, I met her beyond that — Golda Meir.  She was the prime minister.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m sure every kid up there said, you can’t be that old, Senator.  (Laughter.)  I hope that’s what you’re saying.  (Laughter.)  But seriously, the first trip I ever made — and you all know those double doors.  You just go into the office and the blonde furniture and the desk on the left side, if memory serves me correctly.  And Golda Meir, as a prime minister and as a defense minister, she had those maps behind her.  You could pull down all those maps like you had in geography class in high school.

And she sat behind her desk.  And I sat in a chair in front of her desk, and a young man was sitting to my right who was her assistant.  His name was Yitzhak Rabin.  (Laughter.)  Seriously — an absolutely true story.  (Applause.)  And she sat there chain-smoking and reading letters to me, letters from the front from the Six-Day War.  She read letters and told me how this young man or woman had died and this is their family.  This went on for I don’t know how long, and I guess she could tell I was visibly moved by this, and I was getting depressed about it — oh, my God.

And she suddenly looked at me and said — and I give you my word as a Biden that she looked at me and said — she said, Senator, would you like a photo opportunity?  (Laughter.)  And I looked at her.  I said, well yes, Madam Prime Minister.  I mean I was — and we walk out those doors.  We stood there — no statements, and we’re standing next to one another looking at this array of media, television and photojournalists, take — snapping pictures.  And we’re looking straight ahead.

Without looking at me, she speaks to me.  She said, Senator, don’t look so sad.  She said, we have a secret weapon in our confrontation in this part of the world.  And I thought she was about to lean over and tell me about a new system or something.  Because you can see the pictures, I still have them — I turned to look at her.  We were supposed to be looking straight ahead.  And I said, Madam Prime Minister — and never turned her head, she kept looking — she said, our secret weapon, Senator, is we have no place else to go.  We have no place else to go.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, our job is to make sure there’s always a place to go, that there’s always an Israel, that there’s always a secure Israel and there’s an Israel that can care for itself.  (Applause.)  My father was right.  You are right.  It’s the ultimate guarantor of never again.  God bless you all and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:09 A.M. EST

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2013: AIPAC’s got troubles

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AIPAC’s got troubles

Source: WaPo, 3-4-13

At big conferences candor is rarely on the main stage. The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is no different. If you mill around, you see a crowd of mixed of ages, races (African American attendance seems bigger than in past years), ethnicities and religious observance. And you also see some of AIPAC’s challenges.

Given the decline in support for Israel among Democrats, some Jewish leaders are aiming for leaders of the future. But it will be a long wait until such leaders reach political maturity….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: AIPAC Offers Clues to Barack Obama as He Heads to Israel

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AIPAC Offers Clues to Barack Obama as He Heads to Israel

Source: Jewish Daily Forward, 3-3-13

As President Obama prepares for his trip to Israel, he can get a good sense of Israeli expectations by listening in to speeches and conversations at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual policy conference….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: AIPAC President Michael Kassen’s Speech: AIPAC head’s ‘adapt or die’ warning: isolationism ‘extremely dangerous’ for Israel

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AIPAC head’s ‘adapt or die’ warning: isolationism ‘extremely dangerous’ for Israel

Source: Haaretz, 3-3-13

The “growing allure of isolationism” in American politics threatens U.S.-Israeli relations and is “extremely dangerous” for Israel’s security and wellbeing – this was the stark message delivered Sunday by AIPAC President Michael Kassen on the first day….READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

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Full text of Ehud Barak’s 2013 AIPAC speech

Source: Times of Israel, 3-3-13

‘We live in a tough neighborhood, where there is no mercy for the weak. And no second chance for those who cannot defend themselves’

Full text of Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s speech to AIPAC, March 3.

Thank you for such a warm welcome. What an indescribable feeling to be surrounded by so many true friends in the capital of the world’s greatest democracy. Members of the Administration, Members of Congress, distinguished ambassadors, especially our ambassador Michael Oren…. Michael, Rosey, Bob, David, Howard and Richard, AIPAC members… older and young…

Good evening to you all.

It is your toil and your graft – your unwavering support – that keep us safe. I have six humble words for all of you: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I would like to express my personal appreciation to President Obama and Secretary Panetta for their resolute backing of Israel. History will surely record your immeasurable contribution to the strength of Israel, and the maintenance of the truly special relationship between our peoples. On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish Secretary Hagel all the best in his new role. As Secretary of Defense he will, no doubt, serve his country with the same pride and honor with which he served, both on the battlefield and in Congress. It is great to see so many young activists here. Thank you for your energetic commitment to Israel! A commitment which is so lucidly dictated by the head… yet so deeply underpinned by the heart… Keep it up – you are the future!

It is thanks to the rock solid US-Israel relationship, alongside the devotion of the young men and women of the IDF, that our capacity to defend ourselves, has been guaranteed for years to come! With US support, combined with the ingenuity of our scientists; Israel finds itself at the cutting edge of missile defense technology. The ‘Iron Dome’ recently intercepted over 400 incoming terrorist rockets. Practically – this is like hitting a bullet… with a bullet! Just last week, we – the US and Israel – conducted a successful exo-atmospheric test of the Arrow 3 interceptor. The State of Israel simply would not be the strong island of stability it is, without one crucial constant. You! The United States of America. Its people. Its leadership. Its Congress. Its Jewish community.

It is no secret, and I’ll repeat it again, that we live in a tough neighborhood, where there is no mercy for the weak. And no second chance for those who cannot defend themselves. Israel is the strongest country in the region and the only genuinely open democracy. An unprecedented geopolitical earthquake in the last three years has shattered the generations’ old regional order. There are two clear lessons and one insight which I have drawn from this period: # 1: Be modest with predictions……. especially about the future! Take Egypt as an example; Mubarak was unable to predict it… who did? Who thinks he could? #2: When friends tell me: Don’t worry… If worse comes to worst … the world will step forward and act! My answer is: Do not take this for granted.

Look at Syria – you don’t need classified intelligence; it’s on your screens. Assad’s jet fighters, tanks and artillery are slaughtering his own citizens. Over 70,000 Syrians killed. Yet still… there is no sense of direction and no political will to act. There is an extremely relevant lesson here… especially for all of us in Israel. And an insight…

Many believe that the root cause for all the problems in the Middle East… is our inability to solve the conflict with the Palestinians. Well, I say… That’s not true! Recent developments in the Middle East have been far beyond our control… and independent of our deeds. Even if a peace agreement with the Palestinians had been signed and sealed a long time ago: The Muslim Brotherhood would still have come to power in Egypt. Syria would still be mired in a bloody civil war. And Iran would still be pursuing nuclear capabilities and a hegemonic role in the Gulf.

And ladies and gentlemen, it is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities which is the greatest challenge facing Israel, the region and the world today… A nuclear Iran spells the end of any conceivable non-proliferation regime. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and later Egypt will follow suit. In the future, even terrorist groups may try. Diplomatic efforts continue. Sanctions are unprecedented and hurting, but frankly – while exhausting all diplomatic means is understandable – I do not believe it will lead to a “moment of truth”, where the Ayatollahs will give up their nuclear aspirations. Therefore, all options must remain on the table.

We have stated this time and again. And we expect all those who say it… to mean it… Ladies and gentlemen… We mean it. And let me repeat it: we… mean it.

A nuclear Iran is the most imminent and acute danger to the stability of the entire region. But it is not the only one: Radical Islamist terror is spreading rapidly. And the accumulation of missiles and rockets will necessitate regional missile defense. So what is to be done? It is an interregnum right now in Israel, and the new Netanyahu government will have to shape its approach.

But allow me, just before I leave my post, to share with you my positions: The Middle East is a Gestalt – everything depends on everything else. Facing this array of threats, we have to: Firstly, start building a ‘Regional Security Framework’… This should be built around the common challenges of radical Islamist terror, border security, missile defense… and of course, Iran. And being led by the United States, it could provide a variety of synergies for all its regional participants.

Secondly, we need a daring peace initiative vis-à-vis the Palestinians. A two-state solution is the only viable long-term solution. It is a compelling imperative for us, in order to secure our identity and our future as a Jewish and democratic state; it’s not a favor for the Palestinians… Believe me, I tried hard as Prime Minister, together with President Clinton. So I know, from personal experience, that the Palestinians are not easy partners for peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken courageous steps, to renew the process including an unprecedented settlement freeze. But still – from the Palestinian side… no proper response. They clearly bear most of the responsibility for past failures. And I know, a fully fledged agreement is probably not feasible today, But if this is the case – and only a sincere effort can determine this – we have to try and achieve a reasonable, fair, interim agreement. I strongly believe this is possible, while guaranteeing all our security and vital interests.

But if even an interim agreement is unobtainable, then we should consider unilateral steps, in order to place a wedge on this extremely dangerous slippery slope towards a binational state. It involves demarcating a line within the land of Israel… Within which we will have the settlement blocs and a solid Jewish majority for generations to come. As well as setting security arrangements, and a solid Israeli, long-term military presence along the River Jordan. Rest assured… our security should not – and will not – be compromised under any of these alternatives. Tough decisions must be taken; but it is possible. And as our sages teach us: “If not now… when?”

I strongly believe that this intertwined strategic triangle: First, The Regional Security Framework. Second, a reinvigorated political process with the Palestinians… And third: tackling Iran. This triangle, is the most effective approach to deal with the challenges on our horizon.

Israel, has also been experiencing its own tremors of change. In the summer of 2011, the people of Israel took to the streets… demanding a more equal allocation of the burden. Just last month, 53 new, fresh members of the Knesset were sworn in, about half the serving members of Knesset … (Present company included!)… were out. That is what I call democracy in action. A democracy I am proud of. A democracy you can be proud of. I am confident that Prime Minister Netanyahu will lead his new government with the same dedication and responsibility which he led the last.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was born 71 years ago, at the height of World War II; the Nazi crematoria in Europe were working day and night. And now… in 2013, I am ending my tenure as the Minister of Defense of a strong, independent Jewish state. Look at what we – as a nation – have achieved… Who would have believed it then? Today we have an agile and adaptive high-tech and export oriented economy. A start-up culture flourishes on an eruption of talent and an underlying entrepreneurial spirit.

I am optimistic, and my vision for Israel is clear: A strong, self-confident, thriving Jewish, democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. An exemplary state and world leader in science, technology, education and culture. A country in which our children will want to live, and your children will be proud of.

Ladies and gentlemen, We are at a decisive juncture in our history… As President Kennedy noted during the Cuban Missile Crisis: “The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are. But it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation…” I believe we possess the character and courage as a nation to make those tough decisions for the future, peace and security of the State of Israel. Please allow me to end with the millennia old blessing: May the Lord bestow his people with courage; may the Lord bless his people with peace. Thank you…

Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: Michael Oren opens AIPAC: Netanyahu has taken risks for peace, Palestinians must too

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Oren opens AIPAC: Netanyahu has taken risks for peace, Palestinians must too

Source: Haaretz, 3-3-13

Ex-U.S. diplomats Dennis Ross, Elliot Abrams also speak at opening session of AIPAC conference in Washington; On Obama’s planned Israel visit, Abrams says president needs to convince Israelis he has undergone ‘kishke transplant.’

People arrive to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conferenc

People arrive to attend the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington on March 3, 2013. Photo by AFP

Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren opened AIPAC’s 2013 Policy Conference on Sunday, telling delegates that the Palestinians must follow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s lead and take risks for peace…..READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: Michael Oren at AIPAC forum makes appeal for pro-Israel outreach

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Oren at AIPAC forum makes appeal for pro-Israel outreach

Source: JTA, 3-3-13

Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, opened the annual AIPAC policy conference with an appeal for pro-Israel outreach to African-Americans, Latinos and Muslims….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: AIPAC policy conference opens

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AIPAC policy conference opens

Source: Washington Post (blog) , 3-3-13

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) began its annual policy conference this morning with an appearance by Israel’s ambassador, Michael Oren, and a panel with former Middle East adviser Dennis Ross and former deputy national security….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 3, 2013: Live Blogging: Annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

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LIVE: Annual AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

Source: Jerusalem Post, 3-3-13

Jerusalem Post’s living blogging includes  live video and Twitter coverage of AIPAC’s policy conference, featuring Netanyahu, Barak, Biden and more….READ MORE

AIPAC Policy Conference 2013

The AIPAC Policy Conference is the pro-Israel community’s preeminent annual gathering. The event attracts more than 10,000 community and student activists from all 50 states, and more than half of the Senate, a third of the House of Representatives and countless Israeli and American policymakers and thought leaders. Over three jam-packed days, Policy Conference participants choose from hundreds of informative sessions and participate in the pro-Israel community’s largest and most important advocacy day.

 

AIPAC 2013 Schedule

Saturday, March 2, 2013

3:00 PM

Registration and AIPAC Village Open

Sunday, March 3, 2013

9:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Opening General Session

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Breakout Session 1

2:15 PM – 4:30 PM

Breakout Session 2

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Afternoon General Session

Monday, March 4, 2013

9:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Monday Morning General Session

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Club Member Lunches

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Breakout Session 3

2:15 PM – 4:30 PM

Breakout Session 4

4:45 PM – 5:45 PM

Regional Lobbying Training

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Club Member Receptions

8:30 PM – 10:30 PM

Gala Event

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

8:30 AM – 10:30 AM

Tuesday Morning General Session

11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Lobbying Appointments

 

Confirmed Speakers

Featured Speakers

  • The Honorable Joe Biden Vice President of the United States of America
  • The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu Israeli Prime Minister – live via satellite
  • The Honorable Ehud Barak Israeli Defense Minister
  • The Honorable John Baird Canadian Foreign Minister
  • The Honorable Eric Cantor (R-VA) Majority Leader, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable John Cornyn (R-TX) Republican Whip, United States Senate
  • The Honorable Steny Hoyer (D-MD) Democratic Whip, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) Member, Armed Services Committee, United States Senate
  • The Honorable John McCain (R-AZ) Member, Armed Services Committee, United States Senate
  • The Honorable Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee United States Senate
  • The Honorable Marcia Fudge (D-OH) Chairwoman, Congressional Black Caucus, United States House of Representatives
  • Ambassador Dennis Ross Counselor, The Washington Institute For Near East Policy
  • Elliott Abrams Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies Council on Foreign Relations

Ambassadors

  • Ambassador Yehuda Avner, Former Advisor to Israel’s Prime Ministers; Former Israeli Ambassador to Australia and the United Kingdom
  • Ambassador Dan Benjamin, Norman E. McCullogh Director, John Sloan Dickey Center for Understanding, Dartmouth College
  • Ambassador Barukh Binah Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Israel to the United States
  • Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, Former U.S. Ambassador to Morocco
  • Ambassador Brad Gordon, Director, Policy and Government Affairs, AIPAC
  • Ambassador Fred Hof, Senior Fellow, The Atlantic Council; Former Special Representative on Syria, United States Department of State
  • Ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff, Deputy Director General for Strategic Affairs, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ambassador Michael Oren*, Ambassador of Israel to the United States
  • Ambassador Ron Prosor, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations
  • Ambassador Dennis Ross, Counselor, The Washington Institute For Near East Policy; Former National Security Council Senior Director for the Central Region
  • Ambassador Kristen Silverberg, President, United Against Nuclear Iran; Former United States Ambassador to the European Union
  • Ambassador Elin Suleymanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States
  • Ambassador Daniel Taub, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, State of Israel to the Court of St. James

 

Members of Congress

  • The Honorable Shelley Berkley, Former Member, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Leader, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable John Cornyn (R-TX), Republican Whip, United States Senate
  • The Honorable Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Vice Chair, Democratic Caucus; Member, Foreign Affairs Committee, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Ted Cruz (R-TX), Member, Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate
  • The Honorable Ted Deutch (D-FL), Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Member, Foreign Affairs Committee, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member, Foreign Affairs Committee, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Chairwoman, Congressional Black Caucus, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Democratic Whip, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Peter King (R-NY), Chairman, Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee, United States Senate
  • The Honorable Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, United States House of Representatives
  • The Honorable Brad Sherman (D-CA), Rannking Member, Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, United States House of Representatives

Israel Political Brief February 26, 2013: No President Obama or PM Benjamin Netanyau, but AIPAC conference still looking to make noise

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No Obama or Bibi, but AIPAC conf. still looking to make noise

Source: JTA, 2-26-13

President Obama, shown addressing the AIPAC policy conference in Washington in March 2012, will not be attending this year's conference for the second time in his presidency.  (Robert J. Saferstein)

President Obama, shown addressing the AIPAC policy conference in Washington in March 2012, will not be attending this year’s conference for the second time in his presidency. (Robert J. Saferstein)

Next week’s annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington may be as notable for what — and who — is missing as what’s planned.

For the first time in at least seven years, neither the U.S. president nor the Israeli prime minister will attend. In addition, for the second year in a row, no mention of the Palestinians, negative or positive, appears on the conference’s legislative agenda….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Republican Presidential Candidates slam President Barack Obama on Iran in AIPAC Speeches

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Republican White House hopefuls slam Obama on Iran

Source: AFP, 3-6-12

Republican White House hopefuls told Israel’s supporters Tuesday that they would take tougher steps than US President Barack Obama to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

Frontrunner Mitt Romney suggested he would be more willing than Obama to consider using military force while Rick Santorum backed an ultimatum demanding Iran stop nuclear production to avoid action by the US to “tear down” its facilities.

Newt Gingrich, a long-shot for president, told the Washington gathering he would back everything short of war to “undermine and replace” the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad…. READ MORE

Prior to the Republican speeches, US Democratic Senator Carl Levin warned AIPAC delegates against those who might use the issue of how to provide security to Israel, the top US ally in the Middle East, for partisan gain.

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Secretary of Dense Leon Panetta’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2012 — US-Israel Partnership Will Become Closer

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Panetta: U.S.-Israel Partnership Will Become Closer

Source: American Forces Press Service, DOD, 3-6-12

Defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israel is already close, and it will get closer as both countries face the threats of the future, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta delivers remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., March 6, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Panetta spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee here and said the United States and Israel will work closely together in the face of the dangers that confront both countries.

“The security bonds between Israel and the United States will only grow as America goes through a historic turning point after a decade of war,” he said.

In fact, defense cooperation will grow even with U.S. defense budget reductions. Panetta delivered “an ironclad pledge” that the United States will provide whatever support is necessary so Israel maintains military superiority over any state or coalition of states, as well as non-state actors, in the region.

“Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged wars against it,” he said. “The Israeli people have been subjected to rocket attacks, to terrorism, and they live in a world where larger nations have threatened to wipe them off the map.”

Supporting Israel is the right thing to do and isin America’s best interests, Panetta said.

“We have no better ally in this critical region of the world,” he said. “A strong Israel deters potential aggressors. A strong Israel sends a message to the region and to the world that America will not waver in defense of our allies.”

The U.S. has increased security assistance to Israel substantially. This year, the budget calls for $31 billion in assistance to the nation, up from $2.5 billion in fiscal 2009.

“This is part of a 10-year, $30 billion commitment to Israel’s security,” Panetta said. “Over and above this commitment, the President has committed more than $650 million in DOD funding for Israeli missile defense.”

The U.S. is working with Israel to develop an anti-missile system to address the threat from all levels. The system will deal with short-range defense to counter the continued threat of rocket barrages from Gaza. The United States provided more than $200 million for the Iron Dome rocket defense system.

“Iron Dome is fielded, it is operational, and this new system has already saved the lives of Israeli civilians with over 30 real world successful hit-to-kill intercepts in 2011,” Panetta said.

The two nations are also working on medium range missile defense, developing David’s Sling, and upper tier ballistic missile defense with the Arrow-3 system.

“We are also working to upgrade Israel’s Patriot missile system and batteries,” he said. “We are committed to moving forward with all of these systems and more — because as the Prime Minister told me — these missile shields do not start wars, they prevent wars.”

The secretary noted the Israeli air force will receive the world’s most sophisticated warplane — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

“The F-35 is the future of tactical aviation for the United States military, and providing Israel with this advanced fighter makes it the only country in the Middle East with a true fifth-generation fighter capacity, upholding Israel’s edge not just now but for many years to come,” the secretary said.

The two militaries will not only share equipment, but also operational concepts. U.S. and Israeli service members will build greater capability and improve partnership through realistic exercises, joint training and personnel exchanges, Panetta said.

“Each year, U.S. and Israeli forces take part in numerous exercises,” he said. One example is missile defense exercise Austere Challenge that this year will include more than 3,000 U.S. troops.

“This kind of cooperation is mutually beneficial to both the United States and Israel. It has made both of our militaries stronger,” Panetta said.

The secretary pointed out that cooperation is not just a one-way street. It was an Israeli company that met the call to help protect American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan by surging production of up-armor kits for Humvees and mine-resistant vehicles.

“The kits were made in an Israeli kibbutz, and they saved the lives of our men and women in uniform,” Panetta said.

Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Leon Panetta’s AIPAC Speech: When all else fails, the U.S. will act against Iran

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Panetta: When all else fails, the U.S. will act against Iran

Speaking at the AIPAC conference in Washington, U.S. Secretary of Defense says Israel, United States are stronger when they ‘work together’ to ensure Israel’s security.

Source: Haaretz, 3-6-12

When all else fails the U.S. will “act against Iran,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said at the AIPAC conference on Tuesday, adding that Washington and Jerusalem were stronger when “working together.”

Panetta’s address to the pro-Israel U.S. lobby came following appearances by President Shimon Peres, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, all of whom addressed Israel’s concerns regarding the military aspects of Iran’s nuclear program.

Leon Panetta - Reuters - 6/3/2012 Leon Panetta addressing the AIPAC conference in Washington, March 6, 2012.
Photo by: Reuters

On Monday, Netanyahu called on the international community to acknowledge the fact that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, saying that, “amazingly, some people refuse to acknowledge that Iran’s goal is to develop nuclear weapons.”

“You see, Iran claims that it’s enriching uranium to develop medical research. Yeah, right,” he said, adding: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it? That’s right, it’s a duck. But this duck is a nuclear duck and it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck.”

Addressing AIPAC on Tuesday, Panetta referred to the possibility of taking military action against Iran, saying that “when all else fails we will act against Iran.”

Leon Panetta - Reuters U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Photo by: Reuters

“The U.S. must always have the unshakable trust of Israel,” the defense secretary said, referring to Israeli concerns regarding the timing of an attack against Iran, saying that the two states were “stronger when we act as one and when we work together for the security of Israel.”

Panetta, however, reiterated the American stance on Iran, giving precedence to diplomatic pressure and sanctions, saying that the U.S. wanted “diplomacy to work, but we will keep all options including military ones on the table.”…READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s Speech / Remarks to AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference 2012 — Transcript

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Mitt Romney Delivers Remarks to AIPAC Policy Conference

Source: Mitt Romney, 3-6-12

romney-2012-blog-photo-mitt-speech-podium.jpg
Thank you for the opportunity to address the AIPAC Policy Conference. And thanks to Teddy and Ed, who have been great friends, supporters, and teachers over the years.
I regret that my Super Tuesday travel schedule prevents me from being with you in person. But while I can’t be with you, I stand with you. I share your commitment to a strong and secure Israel. And I salute your tireless work to strengthen our alliance.
This year, we are gathering at a dangerous time for Israel and for America. Not since the dark days of 1967 and 1973 has the Middle East faced peril as it does today. This is a critical moment. America must not – and, if I am President, it will not – fail this defining test of history.
The current administration has distanced itself from Israel and visibly warmed to the Palestinian cause. It has emboldened the Palestinians. They are convinced that they can do better at the UN – and better with America – than they can at the bargaining table with Israel.
As President, I will treat our allies and friends like friends and allies.
In recent days and weeks, we’ve heard a lot of words from the administration. Its clear message has been to warn Israel to consider the costs of military action against Iran. I do not believe that we should be issuing public warnings that create distance between the United States and Israel. Israel does not need public lectures about how to weigh decisions of war and peace. It needs our support.
Israel’s democratically elected leaders will always be welcomed and respected by my administration. Israel’s current prime minister is not just a friend; he’s an old friend. We worked together over 30 years ago at the Boston Consulting Group. He is a leader whose intellect and courage I admire – and whose family’s sacrifice I profoundly respect. In a Romney administration, there will be no gap between our nations or between our leaders.
I have seen Israel by land and by air. I have seen its narrow waist, and its vulnerability to positions on the Golan Heights. I have spent time with families in Sderot who have been terrorized by rocket barrages from Gaza. I have walked the streets of Jerusalem, seen schools pocked by rifle rounds fired from the foreboding hills that nearly surround it. I would never call for a return to the ’67 lines because I understand that in Israel, geography is security.
I have studied the writings and speeches of the jihadists. They argue for a one-state solution—one all-dominating radical Islamist state, that is. Their objective is not freedom, not prosperity, not a Palestinian state, but the destruction of Israel. And negotiating and placating such jihadists will never, ever yield peace in the Middle East.
I recognize in the ayatollahs of Iran the zealot refrain of dominion. Their passion for the martyrdom of Arab youth is matched only by their cowardice in avoiding it for themselves. Nuclear ambition is pursued by Iran to dominate, to subjugate, and to obliterate. A nuclear Iran is not only a problem for Israel; it is also a problem for America and the world.
We may not know when Iran will secure sufficient fissile material to threaten the world, but the IAEA warns that that the hour is fast approaching.
In the Gulf, Iran prepares to close the Strait of Hormuz, to hold hostage 20 percent of the world’s oil. In their nuclear laboratories, they prepare the means to hold hostage the entire planet.
Iran has long engaged in terrorism around the world, most recently in Georgia and in Thailand. In Washington, DC, Iran plotted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador by bombing a Georgetown restaurant. Iran has deployed Hezbollah and Hamas and armed the insurgents of Iraq and Afghanistan, killing our sons and daughters. They war against America.
Yet, the current administration has promoted a policy of engagement with Iran. The President offered to sit down with Ahmadinejad during his first year in office without preconditions. He sat silent as Iranian dissidents took to the streets of Tehran, not wanting to disrupt the potential opportunity for dialogue with Iran’s fanatical tyrants. This President not only dawdled in imposing crippling sanctions, he has opposed them.
Hope is not a foreign policy. The only thing respected by thugs and tyrants is our resolve, backed by our power and our readiness to use it.
Of course, the administration’s naïve outreach to Iran gave the ayatollahs exactly what they wanted most. It gave them time. Whatever sanctions they may now belatedly impose, Iran has already gained three invaluable years.
There are some in this administration who argue that Iran’s leaders are “rational,” and that we can do business with them. The President speaks of common interests. Let me be clear: we do not have common interests with a terrorist regime. Their interest is in the destruction of Israel and the domination of the Middle East. It is profoundly irrational to suggest that the ayatollahs think the way we do or share our values. They do not.
I will bring the current policy of procrastination toward Iran to an end. I will not delay in imposing further crippling sanctions, and I will not hesitate to fully implement the ones we currently have. I will make sure Iran knows of the very real peril that awaits if it becomes nuclear. I will engage Iran’s neighbors. I will station multiple carriers and warships at Iran’s door. I will stand with the Syrian people who are being mercilessly slaughtered. I know that the fall of Assad would not only be an important victory for liberty, but also a strategic blow to Tehran.
As President, I will be ready to engage in diplomacy. But I will be just as ready to engage our military might. Israel will know that America stands at its side, in all conditions and in all consequence.
Of course, American strength abroad depends upon our strength at home. My economic plans will buttress our capacity to project power. And as President, I will repair and strengthen our military. President Obama wants to shrink our Navy, our Air Force, and our contingent of fighting men and women. I will expand them. A military in retreat invites adventurism by the world’s worst actors, just as we are seeing today. A strong and superior military is the best ally peace has ever known. I do not seek military superiority solely for the purpose of winning wars. I seek it to prevent wars.
As President, peace will be my solemn goal. A peace based not on empty assurances, but on true security and defensible borders. This will require American strength, and a demonstration of our resolve. That’s why, as President, my first foreign trip will not be to Cairo or Riyadh or Ankara. It will be to Jerusalem.
We will make clear to the world that Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish state is a vital national interest of the United States.
I believe the right course is what Ronald Reagan called “peace through strength.” There is a reason why the Iranians released the hostages on the same day and at the same hour that Reagan was sworn into office. As President, I will offer that kind of clarity, strength, and resolve.
In a Romney administration, the world will know that the bond between Israel and America is unbreakable – and that our opposition to a nuclear Iran is absolute. We must not allow Iran to have the bomb or the capacity to make a bomb. Our enemies should never doubt our resolve and our allies should never doubt our commitment.
This is a critical time, and AIPAC has a vital voice. Together, let’s achieve peace for the region and ensure a secure future for Israel – and America.
God bless America, and God bless our friendship with Israel.

Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Newt Gingrich to President Barack Obama in AIPAC Speech: Deliver ‘Red Line’ Ultimatum to Iran

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Gingrich to Obama: Deliver ‘Red Line’ Ultimatum to Iran

Source: WSJ, 3-6-12

Newt Gingrich joined other Republican presidential candidates Tuesday in attacking President Barack Obama’s policy toward Iran, suggesting the president has not delivered a sufficient “red line” ultimatum to Iran’s leaders.

Newt Gingrich, appearing via satellite, speaks before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in Washington, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

“The red line is not the morning the bomb goes off, or the morning our intelligence committee tells us they’ve failed once again,” Mr. Gingrich said. “The red line is now. Because the Iranians now are deepening their fortifications …deepening their commitment to nuclear weapons, while we talk.”

In a characteristic flourish, Mr. Gingrich also made the broader case to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the influential pro-Israel lobby, that the Obama administration, along with the entire State Department and intelligence community, completely miss the scope and nature of Islamic radicalism.

“We need a fundamental reassessment of our entire understanding of the threat of radical Islam,” Mr. Gingrich told the AIPAC convention in Washington. “We need an administration with the courage to use the words ‘radical Islam.’ ”

He added, “We need to be clear that the teaching of hatred, the recruitment of martyrs, the anticipation that children will grow up to be martyrs are not patterns compatible with a peace process.”…READ MORE

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum’s Speech / Remarks to AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference 2012 — Transcript Excerpts

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Rick Santorum delivers remarks at the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference (AFP, Karen Bleier)

Santorum at AIPAC: “If Iran Doesn’t Get Rid of Nuclear Facilities, We’ll Tear Them Down Ourselves”

Source: Rick Santorum, 3-6-12

On this all-important Super Tuesday, Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum stepped away from the campaign trail to personally address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, DC regarding the vital national security threat facing both the United States and Israel.

In his speech, Santorum said:

“This is a somewhat important day in my life today, but I wanted to come off the campaign trail to come here, because one of the reasons that I decided to run for president is because of the grave concern I have about the security of our country.”

“A nuclear Iran with a nuclear shield to project terror around the world is a nightmare for all freedom-loving people in the world.

“If Iran doesn’t get rid of nuclear facilities, we will tear down them ourselves.”

“This is not bellicosity and warmongering, this is preventing the most radical regime in the world from having a weapon that could fundamentally change the security posture” of “all freedom-loving people in the world.”

“Under a Santorum Administration, we would find no gap between Israel and the United States because our interests are united.”

“I’ve seen a president who has been reticent, he says he has Israel’s back. From everything I’ve seen from the conduct of this administration, he has turned his back on the people of Israel.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 5, 2012: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference 2012 — Transcript

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Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech at AIPAC Policy Conference, 2012

6 March, 2012

Thank you. Todah rabah.

Thank you very much.

Sara and I want to thank you for that wonderful reception. This applause that could be heard as far away as Jerusalem .  Jerusalem – the eternal and united capital of Israel.

Thank you Howard, Rosy, Michael, and thank you all the leadership of AIPAC.  Thank you for everything that you do.

I know that more than a half of the members of Congress are in attendance here tonight.  I deeply appreciate your being here.

Michael, you said that when I spoke last May, in Congress, you – the members of congress – stood up to applaud the State of Israel.

Now I ask for another applause.  Now I ask the 13,000 friends of Israel who are here tonight to stand up and applaud you – the representatives of the United States for standing up for Israel.  Democrats and Republicans alike, I salute your unwavering support to the Jewish state

I want to send a special message to a great friend of Israel who is not here tonight:  Senator Mark Kirk, the co-author of the Kirk-Menendez Iran Sanctions Act.

Senator Kirk, I know you’re watching this tonight.  Please get well soon.  America needs you;  Israel needs you.

I send you wishes for a speedy recovery.  So get well and get back to work.

I also want to recognize Yossi Peled, who is here tonight.  Yossi, would you please stand up.

Yossi was born in Belgium.  His parents hid him with a Christian family during the Holocaust, World War II.  His father and many other members of his family were murdered at Auschwitz.

His mother survived the Holocaust, returned to reclaim Yossi, and brought him to Israel.  He became one of Israel’s bravest and greatest generals.  And today, he serves as a minister in my cabinet.

Yossi’s life is the story of the Jewish people – the story of a powerless and stateless people who became a strong and proud  nation, able to defend itself.

And ladies and gentlemen, Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.

I want to recognize Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.  Michael, you’re doing an outstanding job.  Thank you for all you do for our country.  And thank you for everything you are doing for the friendship between Israel and the United States.

I also want to recognize Ambassador Dan Shapiro, the United States’ Ambassador to Israel.  President Obama is right, your Hebrew is improving, though it is not on par with Michael Oren’s.  Dan, we appreciate your efforts to strengthen the alliance between America and Israel.

Are there any students here tonight?

Is there anyone here from Florida?

from New York?

from Wisconsin?  — that’s important. I’ll tell you about it later

from California?

You’re the future, and thank you all for ensuring the future of the great alliance between America and Israel.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Tonight, I’d like to talk to you about a subject that no one has been talking about recently…: Iran.

Every day, I open the newspapers and read about these redlines and these timelines.  I read about what Israel has supposedly decided to do, or what Israel might do.

Well, I’m not going to talk to you about what Israel will do or will not do, I never talk about that.  But I do want to talk to you about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran.  I want to explain why Iran must never be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.

President Obama has reiterated his commitment to prevent that from happening.  He stated clearly that all options are on the table,   and that American policy is not containment.

Well, Israel has exactly the same policy — We are determined to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons; we leave all options on the table; and containment is definitely not an option.

The Jewish state will not allow those who seek our destruction to possess the means to achieve that goal.

A nuclear armed Iran must be stopped.

Amazingly, some people refuse to acknowledge that Iran’s goal is to develop nuclear weapons.  You see, Iran claims to do everything it’s doing, that it’s enriching uranium to develop medical isotopes.

Yeah, that’s  right.

A country that builds underground nuclear facilities,  develops intercontinental ballistic missiles, manufactures thousands of centrifuges, and that absorbs crippling sanctions,  is doing all that in order to advance…medical research.

So you see, when that Iranian ICBM is flying through the air to a location near you, you’ve got nothing to worry about.  It’s only carrying medical isotopes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then what is it?

That’s right, it’s a duck.  But this duck is a nuclear duck.  And it’s time the world started calling a duck a duck.

Fortunately, President Obama and most world leaders understand that the claim that Iran’s goal is not to develop nuclear weapons is simply ridiculous.

Yet incredibly, some are prepared to accept an idea only slightly less preposterous: that we should accept a world in which the Ayatollahs have atomic bombs.

Sure, they say, Iran is cruel, but it’s not crazy.   It’s detestable but it’s deterrable.

My friends,

Responsible leaders should not bet the security of their countries on the belief that the world’s most dangerous regimes won’t use the world’s most dangerous weapons.

And I promise you that as Prime Minister, I will never gamble with the security of the State of Israel.

From the beginning, the Ayatollah regime has broken every international rule and flouted every norm.  It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats.  It sends its own children through mine fields; it hangs gays and stones women; it supports Assad’s brutal slaughter of the Syrian people; it is the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism: It sponsors Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and terrorists throughout the Middle East, Africa, even South America.

Iran’s proxies have dispatched hundreds of suicide bombers, planted thousands of roadside bombs, and they fired over twenty thousand missiles at civilians.

Through terror from the skies and terror on the ground, Iran is responsible for the murder of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans.

In 1983, Iran’s proxy Hezbollah blew up the Marine barracks in Lebanon, killing 240 US Marines.  In the last decade, it’s been responsible for murdering and maiming American soldiers in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

Just a few months ago, it tried to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US in a restaurant just a few blocks from here.  The assassins didn’t care that several Senators and members of Congress would have been murdered in the process.

Now this is real chutzpa, Iran accuses the American government of orchestrating 9/11, and that’s as brazen as denying the Holocaust, and they do…

Iran calls for Israel’s destruction, and they work for its destruction – each day, every day

This is how Iran behaves today, without nuclear weapons.  Think of how they will behave tomorrow, with nuclear weapons.  Iran will be even more reckless and a lot more dangerous.

There’s been plenty of talk recently about the costs of stopping Iran.  I think it’s time we started talking about the costs of not stopping Iran.

A nuclear-armed Iran would dramatically increase terrorism by giving terrorists a nuclear umbrella. Let me try to explain what that means, a nuclear umbrella.

It means that Iran’s terror proxies like Hezbollah, Hamas will be emboldened to attack the United States, Israel, and other countries because they will be backed by a power that has atomic weapons.  So the terrorism could grow tenfold.

A nuclear-armed Iran could choke off the world’s oil supply and make real its threat to close the Straits of Hormouz.

If you’re worried about the price of oil today, imagine how high oil prices could get once a nuclear-armed Iran starts blackmailing the world.

If Iran gets nuclear weapons, it would set off a mad dash by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others to acquire nuclear weapons of their own.  The world’s most volatile region would become a nuclear tinderbox waiting to go off.

And here’s the worst nightmare of all, with nuclear weapons, Iran could threaten all of us with nuclear terrorism.

It could put a nuclear device in a ship heading to any port or in a truck parked in any city, anywhere in the world.

I want you to think about what it would mean to have nuclear weapons in the hands of those who lead millions of radicals who chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”

When you think about that m you’ll reach a simple conclusion: for the sake of our prosperity, for the sake of our security, for the sake of our children, Iran must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons!

Of course, the best outcome would be if Iran decided to abandon its nuclear weapons program peacefully.  No one would be happier than me and the people of Israel if Iran dismantled its program.

But so far, that hasn’t happened.  For fifteen years, I’ve been warning that a nuclear-armed Iran is a grave danger to my country and to the peace and security of the entire world.

For the last decade, the international community has tried diplomacy.  It hasn’t worked.

For six years, the international community has applied sanctions.  That hasn’t worked either.

I appreciate President Obama’s recent efforts to impose even tougher sanctions against Iran.  These sanctions are hurting Iran’s economy, but unfortunately, Iran’s nuclear program continues to march forward.

Israel has waited patiently for the international community to resolve this issue.  We’ve waited for diplomacy to work.  We’ve waited for sanctions to work.  None of us can afford to wait much longer.

As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Some commentators would have you believe that stopping Iran from getting the bomb is more dangerous than letting Iran have the bomb.  They say that a military confrontation with Iran would undermine the efforts already underway; that it would be ineffective; and that it would provoke an even more vindictive response by Iran.

I’ve heard these arguments before.  In fact, I’ve read them before — In my desk, I have copies of an exchange of letters between the World Jewish Congress and the United States War Department.

Here are the letters:

The year was 1944.  The World Jewish Congress implored the American government to bomb Auschwitz.  The reply came five days later.  I want to read it to you.

Such an operation could be executed only by diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere…

and in any case, it  would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources…

And, my friends, here’s the most remarkable sentence of all, and I quote:

Such an effort might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.

Think about that – “even more vindictive action” — than the Holocaust.

My Friends,

2012 is not 1944.  The American government today is different.  You heard it in President Obama’s speech yesterday.

But here’s my point:

The Jewish people are also different.  Today we have a state of our own.  And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future.

Never again will we not be masters of the fate of our very survival. Never again.

That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

We deeply appreciate the great alliance between our two countries.  But when it comes to Israel’s survival, we must always remain the masters of our fate.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Israel’s fate is to continue to be the forward position of freedom in the Middle East.  The only place in the Middle East where minorities enjoy full civil rights; the only place in the Middle East where Arabs enjoy full civil rights; the only place in the Middle East where Christians are free to practice their faith; the only place in the Middle East where real judges protect the rule of law.

And as Prime Minister of Israel, I will always protect Israel’s democracy – always.  I will never allow anything to threaten Israel’s democratic way of life.  and most especially, I will never tolerate any discrimination against women.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This week, we will read how one woman changed Jewish history.

In Synagogues throughout the world, the Jewish people will celebrate the festival of Purim.  We will read how some 2,500 years ago, a Persian anti-Semite tried to annihilate the Jewish people.

And we will read how that plot was foiled by one courageous woman – Esther.

In every generation, there are those who wish to destroy the Jewish people.

In this generation, we are blessed to live in an age when there is a Jewish state capable of defending the Jewish people.

And we are doubly blessed to have so many friends like you, Jews and non-Jews alike, who love the State of Israel and support its right to defend itself.

So as I leave you tonight I thank you for your friendship.  Thank you for your courage.  Thank you for standing up for the one and only Jewish state.

Thank you all and happy Purim.

PM Netanyahu’s Speech at the AIPAC 2012 – Washington DC

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