Israel Political Brief March 5, 2012: Senator Joseph Lieberman’s Speech / Remarks at AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference — Transcript




Source: Lieberman Senate, 3-5-12

Today, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) delivered remarks at the 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference. Senator Lieberman’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

Remarks to AIPAC Policy Conference

March 5, 2012

Dear friends, thank you. It is a privilege to join you today at this largest and perhaps most important AIPAC Policy Conference ever.

Later this week the holiday of Purim is celebrated in which we read the book of Esther, a story of a miraculous rescue of the Jewish people from annihilation. The hand of God is there on every page of the story of the book of Esther, but the work is ultimately brought about by the acts of a single, principled and courageous woman named Hadassah Esther. This week I would be remiss if I did not introduce to you the beautiful, principled and courageous woman I’m blessed to have as my wife, Hadassah Esther Lieberman.

For me, this is a special moment because it is the last time I will have the honor to stand before you at this conference as a United States Senator. But I want to make very clear that next year I am just leaving the Senate—I am not retiring. And I specifically pledge to you now: whatever the next chapter of my life brings and wherever it takes me, I will continue to stand with you, as you have stood with me, to fight for the causes that have brought us together year after year—a strong America, a strong Israel, and an unbreakable American-Israeli partnership.

I have been fortunate to serve in the Senate for twenty-four remarkable years, during which time the world has transformed in ways that have defied both prophecy and imagination:

The fall of the Soviet Union…

The rise of the Internet…

The 9/11 attacks…

In the Middle East, we have witnessed the Oslo Accords of 1993, raising such great hopes which have sadly yet to be realized…

On the other hand, in 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty which remains a mutually beneficial model for the rest of the Middle East…

In the twenty-four years, we have seen two terrorist two intifadas…

And now the Arab world’s historic democratic uprisings!

Through the ups and downs, Israel has grown more and more vibrant, diverse, and secure, and the U.S.-Israel relationship has grown closer and closer. The bond between our two great democracies and our two great peoples is deeper, wider, and stronger than ever.

And that is because Americans and Israelis have so much in common—from our humanitarian values to our technological innovations, from our system of justice to our systems of defense, from our belief in God to our faith that the Bible is the word of God.

Americans and Israelis come together not in an alliance of convenience, but in a relationship of family.

And that is expressed most powerfully in the long-term, unprecedented, bipartisan pro-Israel majority in both houses of Congress.

The truth is, the ultimate guarantor of the U.S.-Israel relationship is each of you. It is you the American people who—from every corner of our country—take the time to call on your elected leaders to stand with Israel.

That is why your presence today is so important. And that is why what AIPAC does every day is so important.

As much as we have accomplished during the last 24 years in the U.S.-Israel relationship, I must admit that I leave the Senate with two big items of unfinished business.

The first is that, despite a great deal of work, Israel still has not been able to achieve the peace with its Palestinian neighbors that its people want and deserve and that everyone in the Middle East would benefit from. But we will never stop working for that peace, and one day it will come.

My second personal disappointment is that the American Embassy in Israel is still not where it belongs— in the City of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish State of Israel.

But neither you nor I will ever forget Jerusalem, and we will continue to fight for the day when the American flag flies proudly over an American Embassy there. And that day too I believe will come soon.

Today the United States and Israel face a new and even greater danger as Iran marches towards a nuclear weapons capability. And that challenge is rightly the focus of this conference.

Do not let anyone tell you that a nuclear-armed Iran is just Israel’s problem.

It is not.

Do not let anyone tell you we can learn to live with a nuclear-armed Iran.

We cannot.

Do not let anyone tell you that the problem with Iran’s nuclear program is what Israel may do about it and when.

It is not.

The problem is what Iran is doing with its nuclear program and when.

Iran’s nuclear program is a threat to the entire world, but especially to the United States, Israel, and the Arab nations.

If Iran is allowed to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, it will set off a cascade of nuclear proliferation, as other countries in the region seek atomic arsenals of their own.

If Iran is allowed to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, it will make its terrorist proxies, groups that already have the blood of thousands of Americans, Israelis, and Arabs on their hands, infinitely more dangerous.

If Iran is allowed to acquire a nuclear weapons capability, it will be able to bring the global economy to its knees, whenever it wants.

If you think gas prices are high now in our country, imagine what will happen if Iran could back up its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz with a nuclear weapon.

This is a future we cannot afford. It is a future we can and must prevent.

It is definitely within our power to stop Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.

The question is not whether we can stop them—but whether we will choose to stop them.

And that is why, together with my colleagues Senators Bob Casey and Lindsey Graham, I have introduced a nonpartisan resolution that says—when it comes to Iran, all options must be on the table, except for one option, and that is containment.

That is precisely what President Obama has said. Now it is time for the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to say the same thing. With your help this week, we will soon have much more than a majority of Members of the Senate supporting this resolution.

I do not believe that military action to disable Iran’s nuclear project is unavoidable. That choice is Iran’s.

We also have choices to make. If a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, as we all say it is, we must make clear to the world that we are prepared to do whatever is necessary to prevent the unacceptable. The President has said he doesn’t bluff, and neither can we in Congress.

There is nothing more harmful to our chances of stopping Iran peacefully than the suspicion that, in the end, we will give up and let them have nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime must hear this message from us, and we must state it loud and clear: either you peacefully negotiate an end to your illicit nuclear activities, or they will be ended for you by military attack.

It is time for us to make an ironclad pledge to our friends and enemies: the United States will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability—by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must.

Some have asked why we say we must stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapons “capability,” rather than stop them from getting nuclear weapons.

There answer to that question is direct, and it is very important.

The time for action is before Iran has crossed the line of capability to put together a nuclear weapon, when all they have to do is combine the components they have developed to give them a nuclear weapon. If we wait until Iran has nuclear weapons, it will obviously be too late.

My friends, the threat from Iran is more serious than anything faced by the United States and Israel during my twenty-four years in the Senate.

But if America, Israel, and our allies stand together, I know we will meet and defeat this threat.

The great Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov once said, “A country that does not respect the rights of its citizens will not respect the rights of its neighbors.”

For the sake of the people of Iran and all of its neighbors—Israeli and Arab—the days of the despotic regime that now rules Iran must be numbered. And I am confident they will be because the vast majority of the Iranian people, who after all are heirs of one of the world’s great civilizations, reject the despotic and corrupt rule that they have been forced to live under. They want the same freedoms and rights as people everywhere.

That is the story we are seeing across the Middle East right now. It is the reason that the people of Syria are fighting courageously as we speak against Iran’s only ally in the Arab world, Bashar al Assad.

It is why we must do more to help them overthrow Bashar’s evil dictatorship and end his campaign of slaughter. We can no longer stand passively by. We must do more to speed the day when the people of Syria and the people of Iran will again be free.

Let me close now with a final word of thanks and encouragement to each of you. When you come to a conference like this, you step into history and try to influence its course.

The history of the Jewish State of Israel is not brief, as some of its enemies today still claim. Israel’s history didn’t begin in 1948.

It began thousands of years before in Genesis 12:1 when God called Abraham to go to “the land I will show you,” and promised Abraham “I will make you a great nation” there.

Through the millennia since then, through good times and bad, through statehood and Diaspora, the Jewish presence on the land of Island has been continuous.

In the late 19th century, Theodore Herzl began the modern Zionist movement to reestablish a Jewish state in Israel.

As you know well, when people told Herzl he was a foolish dreamer, he told them, “If you will it, it is no dream.”

He and so many after him, Jews and Christians, willed it and worked it, fought for it and died for it, and in 1948, the dream did become a reality again. And now we are blessed because we are “living the dream.”

But don’t ever take it for granted. Even divinely inspired dreams need the work of steadfast men and women here on Earth to keep them real and to keep them alive.

Standing before this enormous and devoted throng, I am full of confidence that in the years ahead, and in the generations to come, the work that you and I have been privileged to do together will go on. The dream will never die, and our destiny’s call, which is for universal justice and peace, will forever be heard.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless Israel, and God bless America.

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