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

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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 10, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Meeting with Esther Pollard

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

PM Netanyahu Meets with Esther Pollard

Source: PMO, 3-4-13

יום שני כ”ב אדר תשע”ג

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon, met with Esther Pollard, wife of Jonathan Pollard. Former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb and Effie Lahav, head of the Committee to Free Jonathan Pollard, also attended the meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “The time has long since come for Jonathan to go free. This issue will come up during President Obama’s visit. It has already been raised countless times by myself and others, and the time has come for him to go free.”

Esther Pollard said, “Jonathan can’t anymore. This is a golden opportunity now that the President of the United States is coming. If not now, when?”

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

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

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

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