Full Text Israel Political Brief December 28, 2016: PM Benjamin Netanyahu statement in response to Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech attacking Israeli settlements Transcript

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

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PM Benjamin Netanyahu statement in response to Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech attacking Israeli settlements

Source: PMO, 12-28-16

 

הצהרת ראש הממשלה נתניהו

28/12/2016
יום רביעי כ”ח כסלו תשע”ז

הנאום של מזכיר המדינה ג’ון קרי הוא אכזבה גדולה.
הוא עוסק באופן אובססיבי בנושא ההתנחלויות בארץ ישראל, במקום לעסוק בשורש הסכסוך – הסירוב הפלסטיני העיקש, המתמשך, להכיר במדינה יהודית בגבולות כלשהם.

אני מוכרח להגיד לכם שאני הופתעתי.
זה מה שיש לשר החוץ של ארצות הברית, המעצמה הגדולה ביותר בתבל, זה מה שיש למזכיר המדינה להתמקד בו כאחד מהנאומים המסכמים, במשך שעה שלמה? המזרח התיכון כולו עולה בלהבות, מדינות שלמות קורסות, הטרור משתולל – ובמשך שעה שלמה מזכיר המדינה תוקף את הדמוקרטיה היחידה במזרח התיכון, ששומרת על היציבות במזרח התיכון, לא רק היציבות שלנו ושל אזרחינו, יהודים וערבים כאחד, אלא גם תורמת ליציבות ולביטחון באזורנו ולכמה וכמה משכנותינו.

אנחנו עכשיו בחג המולד, אולי מזכיר המדינה ג’ון קרי לא שם לב לכך שישראל היא המקום היחיד במזרח התיכון שבו נוצרים יכולים לחגוג את חג המולד בביטחון, בשלווה ובשמחה.
כל זה, לצערי, לא מעניין את מזכיר המדינה של ארצות הברית. הוא יוצר משוואה מוסרית מזויפת בין בניית בית בירושלים או בשכונותיה ובפרבריה, לבין טרור שמכה בחפים מפשע.
ואחרי שהוא יוצר את המשוואה, הוא מדבר כמעט אך ורק על הבית בירושלים, משלם מס שפתיים בלבד לגינוי הטרור.

אגב, בהחלטה של האו”ם שהוא יזם וקידם, שם בכלל מדברים על הסתה, אנונימית, לא יודעים של מי.
ההתנחלויות? זה ישראל.
הסתה? בשטח, לא יודעים של מי.
אני יכול רק להביע צער, כי לו היה הממשל משקיע במאבק בטרור הפלסטיני את אותן אנרגיות שהוא השקיע בגינוי הבנייה בירושלים, אולי היה סיכוי טוב יותר לקדם את השלום.

אני קיבלתי הערב מסר מהרב יהודה בן ישי, אביה של רותי פוגל זיכרונה לברכה, שנרצחה יחד עם משפחתה באיתמר.
הנה מה שהוא כותב לי, הוא אומר: “בימי חנוכה אלה, האור גובר על חושך. על ידך ועל ידי העם כולו המנורה, הסמל של מדינת ישראל, שוב מאירה למרחקים. מתוך אמונה בצור ישראל וגואלו נתגבר בעזרת השם על כל מכשול”.

Translation:

The speech of Secretary of State John Kerry is a big disappointment.
It deals obsessively on settlements in Israel, instead of dealing with the root of the conflict – the Palestinian refusal persistent, ongoing, recognize a Jewish state in any borders.

I must tell you that I was surprised.
This is what the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United States, the greatest power in the world, is what the Secretary of State to focus on one of the speeches summing up, for an hour? Middle East in flames, entire countries, terrorism rampant – and for an hour the secretary of state attacks the only democracy in the Middle East, which maintains stability in the Middle East, not only our stability and our citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, but also contributes to stability and security in the region and to several neighboring countries.

We are now at Christmas, perhaps Secretary of State John Kerry did not notice that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christians can celebrate Christmas in security, peace and joy.
All this, unfortunately, does not interest the Secretary of State of the United States. It creates a false moral equation between building a house in Jerusalem and its suburbs or neighborhoods, and terrorism strikes innocent people.
And after he makes the equation, he talks almost exclusively about the house in Jerusalem, pays only lip service to the condemnation of terrorism.

Incidentally, the decision of the United Nations that he initiated and promoted, where even talking about incitement, anonymous, did not know of any.
Settlement? It’s Israel.
Incitement? Area, do not know who.
I can only express regret that the government has been investing in the fight Palestinian terrorism the same energy he invested in condemning construction in Jerusalem, might have a better chance of promoting peace.

I received a message from Rabbi Yehuda evening Ben-Yishai, father of Ruth Fogel, of blessed memory, who was murdered along with her family in Itamar.
Here is what he wrote to me, he says: “day festival, light overcomes the darkness. By you and the entire nation Menorah, the symbol of the State of Israel, again shines far and wide. Believing the Rock of Israel and Savior will overcome with God’s help any obstacle.”

 

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 28, 2016: Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech on the Middle East attacking Israeli settlements Transcript

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

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Remarks on Middle East Peace

Remarks

John Kerry
Secretary of State
The Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
December 28, 2016

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very, very much. Thank you. (Coughs.) Excuse me. Thank you for your patience, all of you. For those of you who celebrated Christmas, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Happy Chanukah. And to everybody here, I know it’s the middle of a holiday week. I understand. (Laughter.) But I wish you all a very, very productive and Happy New Year.

Today, I want to share candid thoughts about an issue which for decades has animated the foreign policy dialogue here and around the world – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Throughout his Administration, President Obama has been deeply committed to Israel and its security, and that commitment has guided his pursuit of peace in the Middle East. This is an issue which, all of you know, I have worked on intensively during my time as Secretary of State for one simple reason: because the two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace and security with its neighbors. It is the only way to ensure a future of freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. And it is an important way of advancing United States interests in the region.

Now, I’d like to explain why that future is now in jeopardy, and provide some context for why we could not, in good conscience, stand in the way of a resolution at the United Nations that makes clear that both sides must act now to preserve the possibility of peace.

I’m also here to share my conviction that there is still a way forward if the responsible parties are willing to act. And I want to share practical suggestions for how to preserve and advance the prospects for the just and lasting peace that both sides deserve.

So it is vital that we have an honest, clear-eyed conversation about the uncomfortable truths and difficult choices, because the alternative that is fast becoming the reality on the ground is in nobody’s interest – not the Israelis, not the Palestinians, not the region – and not the United States.

Now, I want to stress that there is an important point here: My job, above all, is to defend the United States of America – to stand up for and defend our values and our interests in the world. And if we were to stand idly by and know that in doing so we are allowing a dangerous dynamic to take hold which promises greater conflict and instability to a region in which we have vital interests, we would be derelict in our own responsibilities.

Regrettably, some seem to believe that the U.S. friendship means the U.S. must accept any policy, regardless of our own interests, our own positions, our own words, our own principles – even after urging again and again that the policy must change. Friends need to tell each other the hard truths, and friendships require mutual respect.

Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, who does not support a two-state solution, said after the vote last week, quote, “It was to be expected that Israel’s greatest ally would act in accordance with the values that we share,” and veto this resolution. I am compelled to respond today that the United States did, in fact, vote in accordance with our values, just as previous U.S. administrations have done at the Security Council before us.

They fail to recognize that this friend, the United States of America, that has done more to support Israel than any other country, this friend that has blocked countless efforts to delegitimize Israel, cannot be true to our own values – or even the stated democratic values of Israel – and we cannot properly defend and protect Israel if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes.

And that’s the bottom line: the vote in the United Nations was about preserving the two-state solution. That’s what we were standing up for: Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living side by side in peace and security with its neighbors. That’s what we are trying to preserve for our sake and for theirs.

In fact, this Administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter, with an absolutely unwavering commitment to advancing Israel’s security and protecting its legitimacy.

On this point, I want to be very clear: No American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s. The Israeli prime minister himself has noted our, quote, “unprecedented” military and intelligence cooperation. Our military exercises are more advanced than ever. Our assistance for Iron Dome has saved countless Israeli lives. We have consistently supported Israel’s right to defend itself, by itself, including during actions in Gaza that sparked great controversy.

Time and again we have demonstrated that we have Israel’s back. We have strongly opposed boycotts, divestment campaigns, and sanctions targeting Israel in international fora, whenever and wherever its legitimacy was attacked, and we have fought for its inclusion across the UN system. In the midst of our own financial crisis and budget deficits, we repeatedly increased funding to support Israel. In fact, more than one-half of our entire global Foreign Military Financing goes to Israel. And this fall, we concluded an historic $38 billion memorandum of understanding that exceeds any military assistance package the United States has provided to any country, at any time, and that will invest in cutting-edge missile defense and sustain Israel’s qualitative military edge for years to come. That’s the measure of our support.

This commitment to Israel’s security is actually very personal for me. On my first trip to Israel as a young senator in 1986, I was captivated by a special country, one that I immediately admired and soon grew to love. Over the years, like so many others who are drawn to this extraordinary place, I have climbed Masada, swum in the Dead Sea, driven from one Biblical city to another. I’ve also seen the dark side of Hizballah’s rocket storage facilities just across the border in Lebanon, walked through exhibits of the hell of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, stood on the Golan Heights, and piloted an Israeli jet over the tiny airspace of Israel, which would make anyone understand the importance of security to Israelis. Out of those experiences came a steadfast commitment to Israel’s security that has never wavered for a single minute in my 28 years in the Senate or my four years as Secretary.

I have also often visited West Bank communities, where I met Palestinians struggling for basic freedom and dignity amidst the occupation, passed by military checkpoints that can make even the most routine daily trips to work or school an ordeal, and heard from business leaders who could not get the permits that they needed to get their products to the market and families who have struggled to secure permission just to travel for needed medical care.

And I have witnessed firsthand the ravages of a conflict that has gone on for far too long. I’ve seen Israeli children in Sderot whose playgrounds had been hit by Katyusha rockets. I’ve visited shelters next to schools in Kiryat Shmona that kids had 15 seconds to get to after a warning siren went off. I’ve also seen the devastation of war in the Gaza Strip, where Palestinian girls in Izbet Abed Rabo played in the rubble of a bombed-out building.

No children – Israeli or Palestinian – should have to live like that.

So, despite the obvious difficulties that I understood when I became Secretary of State, I knew that I had to do everything in my power to help end this conflict. And I was grateful to be working for President Obama, who was prepared to take risks for peace and was deeply committed to that effort.

Like previous U.S. administrations, we have committed our influence and our resources to trying to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict because, yes, it would serve American interests to stabilize a volatile region and fulfill America’s commitment to the survival, security and well-being of an Israel at peace with its Arab neighbors.

Despite our best efforts over the years, the two-state solution is now in serious jeopardy.

The truth is that trends on the ground – violence, terrorism, incitement, settlement expansion and the seemingly endless occupation – they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides and increasingly cementing an irreversible one-state reality that most people do not actually want.

Today, there are a number – there are a similar number of Jews and Palestinians living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. They have a choice. They can choose to live together in one state, or they can separate into two states. But here is a fundamental reality: if the choice is one state, Israel can either be Jewish or democratic – it cannot be both – and it won’t ever really be at peace. Moreover, the Palestinians will never fully realize their vast potential in a homeland of their own with a one-state solution.

Now, most on both sides understand this basic choice, and that is why it is important that polls of Israelis and Palestinians show that there is still strong support for the two-state solution – in theory. They just don’t believe that it can happen.

After decades of conflict, many no longer see the other side as people, only as threats and enemies. Both sides continue to push a narrative that plays to people’s fears and reinforces the worst stereotypes rather than working to change perceptions and build up belief in the possibility of peace.

And the truth is the extraordinary polarization in this conflict extends beyond Israelis and Palestinians. Allies of both sides are content to reinforce this with an us or – “you’re with us or against us” mentality where too often anyone who questions Palestinian actions is an apologist for the occupation and anyone who disagrees with Israel policy is cast as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic.

That’s one of the most striking realties about the current situation: This critical decision about the future – one state or two states – is effectively being made on the ground every single day, despite the expressed opinion of the majority of the people.

The status quo is leading towards one state and perpetual occupation, but most of the public either ignores it or has given up hope that anything can be done to change it. And with this passive resignation, the problem only gets worse, the risks get greater and the choices are narrowed.

This sense of hopelessness among Israelis is exacerbated by the continuing violence, terrorist attacks against civilians and incitement, which are destroying belief in the possibility of peace.

Let me say it again: There is absolutely no justification for terrorism, and there never will be.

And the most recent wave of Palestinian violence has included hundreds of terrorist attacks in the past year, including stabbings, shootings, vehicular attacks and bombings, many by individuals who have been radicalized by social media. Yet the murderers of innocents are still glorified on Fatah websites, including showing attackers next to Palestinian leaders following attacks. And despite statements by President Abbas and his party’s leaders making clear their opposition to violence, too often they send a different message by failing to condemn specific terrorist attacks and naming public squares, streets and schools after terrorists.

President Obama and I have made it clear to the Palestinian leadership countless times, publicly and privately, that all incitement to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned violence and terrorism, and even condemned the Palestinian leadership for not condemning it.

Far too often, the Palestinians have pursued efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora. We have strongly opposed these initiatives, including the recent wholly unbalanced and inflammatory UNESCO resolution regarding Jerusalem. And we have made clear our strong opposition to Palestinian efforts against Israel at the ICC, which only sets back the prospects for peace.

And we all understand that the Palestinian Authority has a lot more to do to strengthen its institutions and improve governance.

Most troubling of all, Hamas continues to pursue an extremist agenda: they refuse to accept Israel’s very right to exist. They have a one-state vision of their own: all of the land is Palestine. Hamas and other radical factions are responsible for the most explicit forms of incitement to violence, and many of the images that they use are truly appalling. And they are willing to kill innocents in Israel and put the people of Gaza at risk in order to advance that agenda.

Compounding this, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, exacerbated by the closings of the crossings, is dire. Gaza is home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of people enduring extreme hardships with few opportunities. 1.3 million people out of Gaza’s population of 1.8 million are in need of daily assistance – food and shelter. Most have electricity less than half the time and only 5 percent of the water is safe to drink. And yet despite the urgency of these needs, Hamas and other militant groups continue to re-arm and divert reconstruction materials to build tunnels, threatening more attacks on Israeli civilians that no government can tolerate.

Now, at the same time, we have to be clear about what is happening in the West Bank. The Israeli prime minister publicly supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history, with an agenda driven by the most extreme elements. The result is that policies of this government, which the prime minister himself just described as “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history,” are leading in the opposite direction. They’re leading towards one state. In fact, Israel has increasingly consolidated control over much of the West Bank for its own purposes, effectively reversing the transitions to greater Palestinian civil authority that were called for by the Oslo Accords.

I don’t think most people in Israel, and certainly in the world, have any idea how broad and systematic the process has become. But the facts speak for themselves. The number of settlers in the roughly 130 Israeli settlements east of the 1967 lines has steadily grown. The settler population in the West Bank alone, not including East Jerusalem, has increased by nearly 270,000 since Oslo, including 100,000 just since 2009, when President Obama’s term began.

There’s no point in pretending that these are just in large settlement blocks. Nearly 90,000 settlers are living east of the separation barrier that was created by Israel itself in the middle of what, by any reasonable definition, would be the future Palestinian state. And the population of these distant settlements has grown by 20,000 just since 2009. In fact, just recently the government approved a significant new settlement well east of the barrier, closer to Jordan than to Israel. What does that say to Palestinians in particular – but also to the United States and the world – about Israel’s intentions?

Let me emphasize, this is not to say that the settlements are the whole or even the primary cause of this conflict. Of course they are not. Nor can you say that if the settlements were suddenly removed, you’d have peace. Without a broader agreement, you would not. And we understand that in a final status agreement, certain settlements would become part of Israel to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 49 years – we understand that – including the new democratic demographic realities that exist on the ground. They would have to be factored in. But if more and more settlers are moving into the middle of Palestinian areas, it’s going to be just that much harder to separate, that much harder to imagine transferring sovereignty, and that is exactly the outcome that some are purposefully accelerating.

Let’s be clear: Settlement expansion has nothing to do with Israel’s security. Many settlements actually increase the security burden on the Israeli Defense Forces. And leaders of the settler movement are motivated by ideological imperatives that entirely ignore legitimate Palestinian aspirations.

Among the most troubling illustrations of this point has been the proliferation of settler outposts that are illegal under Israel’s own laws. They’re often located on private Palestinian land and strategically placed in locations that make two states impossible. There are over 100 of these outposts. And since 2011, nearly one-third of them have been or are being legalized, despite pledges by past Israeli governments to dismantle many of them.

Now leaders of the settler movement have advanced unprecedented new legislation that would legalize most of those outposts. For the first time, it would apply Israeli domestic law to the West Bank rather than military law, which is a major step towards the process of annexation. When the law passed the first reading in the Israeli parliament, in the Knesset, one of the chief proponents said proudly – and I quote – “Today, the Israeli Knesset moved from heading towards establishing a Palestinian state towards Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.” Even the Israeli attorney general has said that the draft law is unconstitutional and a violation of international law.

Now, you may hear from advocates that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace because the settlers who don’t want to leave can just stay in Palestine, like the Arab Israelis who live in Israel. But that misses a critical point, my friends. The Arab Israelis are citizens of Israel, subject to Israel’s law. Does anyone here really believe that the settlers will agree to submit to Palestinian law in Palestine?

Likewise, some supporters of the settlements argue that the settlers could just stay in their settlements and remain as Israeli citizens in their separate enclaves in the middle of Palestine, protected by the IDF. Well, there are over 80 settlements east of the separation barrier, many located in places that would make a continuous – a contiguous Palestinian state impossible. Does anyone seriously think that if they just stay where they are you could still have a viable Palestinian state?

Now, some have asked, “Why can’t we build in the blocs which everyone knows will eventually be part of Israel?” Well, the reason building there or anywhere else in the West Bank now results in such pushback is that the decision of what constitutes a bloc is being made unilaterally by the Israeli Government, without consultation, without the consent of the Palestinians, and without granting the Palestinians a reciprocal right to build in what will be, by most accounts, part of Palestine. Bottom line – without agreement or mutuality, the unilateral choices become a major point of contention, and that is part of why we are here where we are.

You may hear that these remote settlements aren’t a problem because they only take up a very small percentage of the land. Well, again and again we have made it clear, it’s not just a question of the overall amount of land available in the West Bank. It’s whether the land can be connected or it’s broken up into small parcels, like a Swiss cheese, that could never constitute a real state. The more outposts that are built, the more the settlements expand, the less possible it is to create a contiguous state. So in the end, a settlement is not just the land that it’s on, it’s also what the location does to the movement of people, what it does to the ability of a road to connect people, one community to another, what it does to the sense of statehood that is chipped away with each new construction. No one thinking seriously about peace can ignore the reality of what the settlements pose to that peace.

But the problem, obviously, goes well beyond settlements. Trends indicate a comprehensive effort to take the West Bank land for Israel and prevent any Palestinian development there. Today, the 60 percent of the West Bank known as Area C – much of which was supposed to be transferred to Palestinian control long ago under the Oslo Accords – much of it is effectively off limits to Palestinian development. Most today has essentially been taken for exclusive use by Israel simply by unilaterally designating it as “state land” or including it within the jurisdiction of regional settlement councils. Israeli farms flourish in the Jordan River Valley, and Israeli resorts line the shores of the Dead Sea – a lot of people don’t realize this – they line the shore of the Dead Sea, where Palestinian development is not allowed. In fact, almost no private Palestinian building is approved in Area C at all. Only one permit was issued by Israel in all of 2014 and 2015, while approvals for hundreds of settlement units were advanced during that same period.

Moreover, Palestinian structures in Area C that do not have a permit from the Israeli military are potentially subject to demolition. And they are currently being demolished at an historically high rate. Over 1,300 Palestinians, including over 600 children, have been displaced by demolitions in 2016 alone – more than any previous year.

So the settler agenda is defining the future of Israel. And their stated purpose is clear. They believe in one state: greater Israel. In fact, one prominent minister, who heads a pro-settler party, declared just after the U.S. election – and I quote – “the era of the two-state solution is over,” end quote. And many other coalition ministers publicly reject a Palestinian state. And they are increasingly getting their way, with plans for hundreds of new units in East Jerusalem recently announced and talk of a major new settlement building effort in the West Bank to follow.

So why are we so concerned? Why does this matter? Well, ask yourself these questions: What happens if that agenda succeeds? Where does that lead?

There are currently about 2.75 million Palestinians living under military occupation in the West Bank, most of them in Areas A and B – 40 percent of the West Bank – where they have limited autonomy. They are restricted in their daily movements by a web of checkpoints and unable to travel into or out of the West Bank without a permit from the Israelis.

So if there is only one state, you would have millions of Palestinians permanently living in segregated enclaves in the middle of the West Bank, with no real political rights, separate legal, education, and transportation systems, vast income disparities, under a permanent military occupation that deprives them of the most basic freedoms. Separate and unequal is what you would have. And nobody can explain how that works. Would an Israeli accept living that way? Would an American accept living that way? Will the world accept it?

If the occupation becomes permanent, over the time the Palestinian Authority could simply dissolve, turn over all the administrative and security responsibilities to the Israelis. What would happen then? Who would administer the schools and hospitals and on what basis? Does Israel want to pay for the billions of dollars of lost international assistance that the Palestinian Authority now receives? Would the Israel Defense Force police the streets of every single Palestinian city and town?

How would Israel respond to a growing civil rights movement from Palestinians, demanding a right to vote, or widespread protests and unrest across the West Bank? How does Israel reconcile a permanent occupation with its democratic ideals? How does the U.S. continue to defend that and still live up to our own democratic ideals?

Nobody has ever provided good answers to those questions because there aren’t any. And there would be an increasing risk of more intense violence between Palestinians and settlers, and complete despair among Palestinians that would create very fertile ground for extremists.

With all the external threats that Israel faces today, which we are very cognizant of and working with them to deal with, does it really want an intensifying conflict in the West Bank? How does that help Israel’s security? How does that help the region?

The answer is it doesn’t, which is precisely why so many senior Israeli military and intelligence leaders, past and present, believe the two-state solution is the only real answer for Israel’s long term security.

Now, one thing we do know: if Israel goes down the one state path, it will never have true peace with the rest of the Arab world, and I can say that with certainty. The Arab countries have made clear that they will not make peace with Israel without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That’s not where their loyalties lie. That’s not where their politics are.

But there is something new here. Common interests in countering Iran’s destabilizing activities, and fighting extremists, as well as diversifying their economies have created real possibilities for something different is Israel takes advantage of the opportunities for peace. I have spent a great deal of time with key Arab leaders exploring this, and there is no doubt that they are prepared to have a fundamentally different relationship with Israel. That was stated in the Arab Peace Initiative, years ago. And in all my recent conversations, Arab leaders have confirmed their readiness, in the context of Israeli-Palestinian peace, not just to normalize relations but to work openly on securing that peace with significant regional security cooperation. It’s waiting. It’s right there.

Many have shown a willingness to support serious Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and to take steps on the path to normalization to relations, including public meetings, providing there is a meaningful progress towards a two-state solution. My friends, that is a real opportunity that we should not allow to be missed.

And that raises one final question: Is ours the generation that gives up on the dream of a Jewish democratic state of Israel living in peace and security with its neighbors? Because that is really what is at stake.

Now, that is what informed our vote at the Security Council last week – the need to preserve the two-state solution – and both sides in this conflict must take responsibility to do that. We have repeatedly and emphatically stressed to the Palestinians that all incitement to violence must stop. We have consistently condemned all violence and terrorism, and we have strongly opposed unilateral efforts to delegitimize Israel in international fora.

We’ve made countless public and private exhortations to the Israelis to stop the march of settlements. In literally hundreds of conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I have made clear that continued settlement activity would only increase pressure for an international response. We have all known for some time that the Palestinians were intent on moving forward in the UN with a settlements resolution, and I advised the prime minister repeatedly that further settlement activity only invited UN action.

Yet the settlement activity just increased, including advancing the unprecedented legislation to legalize settler outposts that the prime minister himself reportedly warned could expose Israel to action at the Security Council and even international prosecution before deciding to support it.

In the end, we could not in good conscience protect the most extreme elements of the settler movement as it tries to destroy the two-state solution. We could not in good conscience turn a blind eye to Palestinian actions that fan hatred and violence. It is not in U.S. interest to help anyone on either side create a unitary state. And we may not be able to stop them, but we cannot be expected to defend them. And it is certainly not the role of any country to vote against its own policies.

That is why we decided not to block the UN resolution that makes clear both sides have to take steps to save the two-state solution while there is still time. And we did not take this decision lightly. The Obama Administration has always defended Israel against any effort at the UN and any international fora or biased and one-sided resolutions that seek to undermine its legitimacy or security, and that has not changed. It didn’t change with this vote.

But remember it’s important to note that every United States administration, Republican and Democratic, has opposed settlements as contrary to the prospects for peace, and action at the UN Security Council is far from unprecedented. In fact, previous administrations of both political parties have allowed resolutions that were critical of Israel to pass, including on settlements. On dozens of occasions under George W. Bush alone, the council passed six resolutions that Israel opposed, including one that endorsed a plan calling for a complete freeze on settlements, including natural growth.

Let me read you the lead paragraph from a New York Times story dated December 23rd. I quote: “With the United States abstaining, the Security Council adopted a resolution today strongly deploring Israel’s handling of the disturbances in the occupied territories, which the resolution defined as, including Jerusalem. All of the 14 other Security Council members voted in favor.” My friends, that story was not written last week. It was written December 23rd, 1987, 26 years to the day that we voted last week, when Ronald Reagan was president.

Yet despite growing pressure, the Obama Administration held a strong line against UN action, any UN action, we were the only administration since 1967 that had not allowed any resolution to pass that Israel opposed. In fact, the only time in eight years the Obama Administration exercised its veto at the United Nations was against a one-sided settlements resolution in 2011. And that resolution did not mention incitement or violence.

Now let’s look at what’s happened since then. Since then, there have been over 30,000 settlement units advanced through some stage of the planning process. That’s right – over 30,000 settlement units advanced notwithstanding the positions of the United States and other countries. And if we had vetoed this resolution just the other day, the United States would have been giving license to further unfettered settlement construction that we fundamentally oppose.

So we reject the criticism that this vote abandons Israel. On the contrary, it is not this resolution that is isolating Israel; it is the permanent policy of settlement construction that risks making peace impossible. And virtually every country in the world other than Israel opposes settlements. That includes many of the friends of Israel, including the United Kingdom, France, Russia – all of whom voted in favor of the settlements resolution in 2011 that we vetoed, and again this year along with every other member of the council.

In fact, this resolution simply reaffirms statements made by the Security Council on the legality of settlements over several decades. It does not break new ground. In 1978, the State Department Legal Adviser advised the Congress on his conclusion that Israel’s government, the Israeli Government’s program of establishing civilian settlements in the occupied territory is inconsistent with international law, and we see no change since then to affect that fundamental conclusion.

Now, you may have heard that some criticized this resolution for calling East Jerusalem occupied territory. But to be clear, there was absolutely nothing new in last week’s resolution on that issue. It was one of a long line of Security Council resolutions that included East Jerusalem as part of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, and that includes resolutions passed by the Security Council under President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. And remember that every U.S. administration since 1967, along with the entire international community, has recognized East Jerusalem as among the territories that Israel occupied in the Six-Day War.

Now, I want to stress this point: We fully respect Israel’s profound historic and religious ties to the city and to its holy sites. We’ve never questioned that. This resolution in no manner prejudges the outcome of permanent status negotiations on East Jerusalem, which must, of course, reflect those historic ties and the realities on the ground. That’s our position. We still support it.

We also strongly reject the notion that somehow the United States was the driving force behind this resolution. The Egyptians and Palestinians had long made clear to all of us – to all of the international community – their intention to bring a resolution to a vote before the end of the year, and we communicated that to the Israelis and they knew it anyway. The United States did not draft or originate this resolution, nor did we put it forward. It was drafted by Egypt – it was drafted and I think introduced by Egypt, which is one of Israel’s closest friends in the region, in coordination with the Palestinians and others.

And during the time of the process as it went out, we made clear to others, including those on the Security Council, that it was possible that if the resolution were to be balanced and it were to include references to incitement and to terrorism, that it was possible the United States would then not block it, that – if it was balanced and fair. That’s a standard practice with resolutions at the Security Council. The Egyptians and the Palestinians and many others understood that if the text were more balanced, it was possible we wouldn’t block it. But we also made crystal clear that the President of the United States would not make a final decision about our own position until we saw the final text.

In the end, we did not agree with every word in this resolution. There are important issues that are not sufficiently addressed or even addressed at all. But we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that condemns violence and incitement and reiterates what has been for a long time the overwhelming consensus and international view on settlements and calls for the parties to start taking constructive steps to advance the two-state solution on the ground.

Ultimately, it will be up to the Israeli people to decide whether the unusually heated attacks that Israeli officials have directed towards this Administration best serve Israel’s national interests and its relationship with an ally that has been steadfast in its support, as I described. Those attacks, alongside allegations of U.S.-led conspiracy and other manufactured claims, distract attention from what the substance of this vote was really all about.

And we all understand that Israel faces very serious threats in a very tough neighborhood. Israelis are rightfully concerned about making sure that there is not a new terrorist haven right next door to them, often referencing what’s happened with Gaza, and we understand that and we believe there are ways to meet those needs of security. And Israelis are fully justified in decrying attempts to legitimize[1] their state and question the right of a Jewish state to exist. But this vote was not about that. It was about actions that Israelis and Palestinians are taking that are increasingly rendering a two-state solution impossible. It was not about making peace with the Palestinians now – it was about making sure that peace with the Palestinians will be possible in the future.

Now, we all understand that Israel faces extraordinary, serious threats in a very tough neighborhood. And Israelis are very correct in making sure that there’s not a terrorist haven right on their border.

But this vote – I can’t emphasize enough – is not about the possibility of arriving at an agreement that’s going to resolve that overnight or in one year or two years. This is about a longer process. This is about how we make peace with the Palestinians in the future but preserve the capacity to do so.

So how do we get there? How do we get there, to that peace?

Since the parties have not yet been able to resume talks, the U.S. and the Middle East Quartet have repeatedly called on both sides to independently demonstrate a genuine commitment to the two-state solution – not just with words, but with real actions and policies – to create the conditions for meaningful negotiations.

We’ve called for both sides to take significant steps on the ground to reverse current trends and send a different message – a clear message – that they are prepared to fundamentally change the equation without waiting for the other side to act.

We have pushed them to comply with their basic commitments under their own prior agreements in order to advance a two-state reality on the ground.

We have called for the Palestinians to do everything in their power to stop violence and incitement, including publicly and consistently condemning acts of terrorism and stopping the glorification of violence.

And we have called on them to continue efforts to strengthen their own institutions and to improve governance, transparency, and accountability.

And we have stressed that the Hamas arms buildup and militant activities in Gaza must stop.

Along with our Quartet partners, we have called on Israel to end the policy of settlement construction and expansion, of taking land for exclusive Israeli use and denying Palestinian development.

To reverse the current process, the U.S. and our partners have encouraged Israel to resume the transfer of greater civil authority to the Palestinians in Area C, consistent with the transition that was called for by Oslo. And we have made clear that significant progress across a range of sectors, including housing, agriculture, and natural resources, can be made without negatively impacting Israel’s legitimate security needs. And we’ve called for significantly easing the movement and access restrictions to and from Gaza, with due consideration for Israel’s need to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks.

So let me stress here again: None of the steps that I just talked about would negatively impact Israel’s security.

Let me also emphasize this is not about offering limited economic measures that perpetuate the status quo. We’re talking about significant steps that would signal real progress towards creating two states.

That’s the bottom line: If we’re serious about the two-state solution, it’s time to start implementing it now. Advancing the process of separation now, in a serious way, could make a significant difference in saving the two-state solution and in building confidence in the citizens of both sides that peace is, indeed, possible. And much progress can be made in advance of negotiations that can lay the foundation for negotiations, as contemplated by the Oslo process. In fact, these steps will help create the conditions for successful talks.

Now, in the end, we all understand that a final status agreement can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties. We’ve said that again and again. We cannot impose the peace.

There are other countries in the UN who believe it is our job to dictate the terms of a solution in the Security Council. Others want us to simply recognize a Palestinian state, absent an agreement. But I want to make clear today, these are not the choices that we will make.

We choose instead to draw on the experiences of the last eight years, to provide a way forward when the parties are ready for serious negotiations. In a place where the narratives from the past powerfully inform and mold the present, it’s important to understand the history. We mark this year and next a series of milestones that I believe both illustrate the two sides of the conflict and form the basis for its resolution. It’s worth touching on them briefly.

A hundred and twenty years ago, the First Zionist Congress was convened in Basel by a group of Jewish visionaries, who decided that the only effective response to the waves of anti-Semitic horrors sweeping across Europe was to create a state in the historic home of the Jewish people, where their ties to the land went back centuries – a state that could defend its borders, protect its people, and live in peace with its neighbors. That was the vision. That was the modern beginning, and it remains the dream of Israel today.

Nearly 70 years ago, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 finally paved the way to making the State of Israel a reality. The concept was simple: to create two states for two peoples – one Jewish, one Arab – to realize the national aspirations of both Jews and Palestinians. And both Israel and the PLO referenced Resolution 181 in their respective declarations of independence.

The United States recognized Israel seven minutes after its creation. But the Palestinians and the Arab world did not, and from its birth, Israel had to fight for its life. Palestinians also suffered terribly in the 1948 war, including many who had lived for generations in a land that had long been their home too. And when Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2018, the Palestinians will mark a very different anniversary: 70 years since what they call the Nakba, or catastrophe.

Next year will also mark 50 years since the end of the Six-Day War, when Israel again fought for its survival. And Palestinians will again mark just the opposite: 50 years of military occupation. Both sides have accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, which called for the withdrawal of Israel from territory that it occupied in 1967 in return for peace and secure borders, as the basis for ending the conflict.

It has been more than 20 years since Israel and the PLO signed their first agreement – the Oslo Accords – and the PLO formally recognized Israel. Both sides committed to a plan to transition much of the West Bank and Gaza to Palestinian control during permanent status negotiations that would put an end to their conflict. Unfortunately, neither the transition nor the final agreement came about, and both sides bear responsibility for that.

Finally, some 15 years ago, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia came out with the historic Arab Peace Initiative, which offered fully normalized relations with Israel when it made peace – an enormous opportunity then and now, which has never been fully been embraced.

That history was critical to our approach to trying to find a way to resolve the conflict. And based on my experience with both sides over the last four years, including the nine months of formal negotiations, the core issues can be resolved if there is leadership on both sides committed to finding a solution.

In the end, I believe the negotiations did not fail because the gaps were too wide, but because the level of trust was too low. Both sides were concerned that any concessions would not be reciprocated and would come at too great a political cost. And the deep public skepticism only made it more difficult for them to be able to take risks.

In the countless hours that we spent working on a detailed framework, we worked through numerous formulations and developed specific bridging proposals, and we came away with a clear understanding of the fundamental needs of both sides. In the past two and a half years, I have tested ideas with regional and international stakeholders, including our Quartet partners. And I believe what has emerged from all of that is a broad consensus on balanced principles that would satisfy the core needs of both sides.

President Clinton deserves great credit for laying out extensive parameters designed to bridge gaps in advanced final status negotiations 16 years ago. Today, with mistrust too high to even start talks, we’re at the opposite end of the spectrum. Neither side is willing to even risk acknowledging the other’s bottom line, and more negotiations that do not produce progress will only reinforce the worst fears.

Now, everyone understands that negotiations would be complex and difficult, and nobody can be expected to agree on the final result in advance. But if the parties could at least demonstrate that they understand the other side’s most basic needs – and are potentially willing to meet them if theirs are also met at the end of comprehensive negotiations – perhaps then enough trust could be established to enable a meaningful process to begin.

It is in that spirit that we offer the following principles – not to prejudge or impose an outcome, but to provide a possible basis for serious negotiations when the parties are ready. Now, individual countries may have more detailed policies on these issues – as we do, by the way – but I believe there is a broad consensus that a final status agreement that could meet the needs of both sides would do the following.

Principle number one: Provide for secure and recognized international borders between Israel and a viable and contiguous Palestine, negotiated based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed equivalent swaps.

Resolution 242, which has been enshrined in international law for 50 years, provides for the withdrawal of Israel from territory it occupied in 1967 in return for peace with its neighbors and secure and recognized borders. It has long been accepted by both sides, and it remains the basis for an agreement today.

As Secretary, one of the first issues that I worked out with the Arab League was their agreement that the reference in the Arab Peace Initiative to the 1967 lines would from now on include the concept of land swaps, which the Palestinians have acknowledged. And this is necessary to reflect practical realities on the ground, and mutually agreed equivalent swaps that will ensure that the agreement is fair to both sides.

There is also broad recognition of Israel’s need to ensure that the borders are secure and defensible, and that the territory of Palestine is viable and contiguous. Virtually everyone that I have spoken to has been clear on this principle as well: No changes by Israel to the 1967 lines will be recognized by the international community unless agreed to by both sides.

Principle two: Fulfill the vision of the UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab, with mutual recognition and full equal rights for all their respective citizens.

This has been the fundamental – the foundational principle of the two-state solution from the beginning: creating a state for the Jewish people and a state for the Palestinian people, where each can achieve their national aspirations. And Resolution 181 is incorporated into the foundational documents of both the Israelis and Palestinians. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish state has been the U.S. position for years, and based on my conversations in these last months, I am absolutely convinced that many others are now prepared to accept it as well – provided the need for a Palestinian state is also addressed.

We also know that there are some 1.7 million Arab citizens who call Israel their home and must now and always be able to live as equal citizens, which makes this a difficult issue for Palestinians and others in the Arab world. That’s why it is so important that in recognizing each other’s homeland – Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people – both sides reaffirm their commitment to upholding full equal rights for all of their respective citizens.

Principle number three: Provide for a just, agreed, fair, and realistic solution to the Palestinian refugee issue, with international assistance, that includes compensation, options and assistance in finding permanent homes, acknowledgment of suffering, and other measures necessary for a comprehensive resolution consistent with two states for two peoples.

The plight of many Palestinian refugees is heartbreaking, and all agree that their needs have to be addressed. As part of a comprehensive resolution, they must be provided with compensation, their suffering must be acknowledged, and there will be a need to have options and assistance in finding permanent homes. The international community can provide significant support and assistance. I know we are prepared to do that, including in raising money to help ensure the compensation and other needs of the refugees are met, and many have expressed a willingness to contribute to that effort, particularly if it brings peace. But there is a general recognition that the solution must be consistent with two states for two peoples, and cannot affect the fundamental character of Israel.

Principle four: Provide an agreed resolution for Jerusalem as the internationally recognized capital of the two states, and protect and assure freedom of access to the holy sites consistent with the established status quo.

Now, Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides, and the solution will have to meet the needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths. That is why the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible and the established status quo maintained. Most acknowledge that Jerusalem should not be divided again like it was in 1967, and we believe that. At the same time, there is broad recognition that there will be no peace agreement without reconciling the basic aspirations of both sides to have capitals there.

Principle five: Satisfy Israel’s security needs and bring a full end, ultimately, to the occupation, while ensuring that Israel can defend itself effectively and that Palestine can provide security for its people in a sovereign and non-militarized state.

Security is the fundamental issue for Israel together with a couple of others I’ve mentioned, but security is critical. Everyone understands that no Israeli Government can ever accept an agreement that does not satisfy its security needs or that risk creating an enduring security threat like Gaza transferred to the West Bank. And Israel must be able to defend itself effectively, including against terrorism and other regional threats. In fact, there is a real willingness by Egypt, Jordan, and others to work together with Israel on meeting key security challenges. And I believe that those collective efforts, including close coordination on border security, intelligence-sharing, joint cooperations – joint operation, can all play a critical role in securing the peace.

At the same time, fully ending the occupation is the fundamental issue for the Palestinians. They need to know that the military occupation itself will really end after an agreed transitional process. They need to know they can live in freedom and dignity in a sovereign state while providing security for their population even without a military of their own. This is widely accepted as well. And it is important to understand there are many different ways without occupation for Israel and Palestine and Jordan and Egypt and the United States and others to cooperate in providing that security.

Now, balancing those requirements was among the most important challenges that we faced in the negotiations, but it was one where the United States has the ability to provide the most assistance. And that is why a team that was led by General John Allen, who is here, for whom I am very grateful for his many hours of effort, along with – he is one of our foremost military minds, and dozens of experts from the Department of Defense and other agencies, all of them engaged extensively with the Israeli Defense Force on trying to find solutions that could help Israel address its legitimate security needs.

They developed innovative approaches to creating unprecedented, multi-layered border security; enhancing Palestinian capacity; enabling Israel to retain the ability to address threats by itself even when the occupation had ended. General Allen and his team were not suggesting one particular outcome or one particular timeline, nor were they suggesting that technology alone would resolve these problems. They were simply working on ways to support whatever the negotiators agreed to. And they did some very impressive work that gives me total confidence that Israel’s security requirements can be met.

Principle six: End the conflict and all outstanding claims, enabling normalized relations and enhanced regional security for all as envisaged by the Arab Peace Initiative. It is essential for both sides that the final status agreement resolves all the outstanding issues and finally brings closure to this conflict, so that everyone can move ahead to a new era of peaceful coexistence and cooperation. For Israel, this must also bring broader peace with all of its Arab neighbors. That is the fundamental promise of the Arab Peace Initiative, which key Arab leaders have affirmed in these most recent days.

The Arab Peace Initiative also envisions enhanced security for all of the region. It envisages Israel being a partner in those efforts when peace is made. This is the area where Israel and the Arab world are looking at perhaps the greatest moment of potential transformation in the Middle East since Israel’s creation in 1948. The Arab world faces its own set of security challenges. With Israeli-Palestinian peace, Israel, the United States, Jordan, Egypt – together with the GCC countries – would be ready and willing to define a new security partnership for the region that would be absolutely groundbreaking.

So ladies and gentlemen, that’s why it is vital that we all work to keep open the possibility of peace, that we not lose hope in the two-state solution, no matter how difficult it may seem – because there really is no viable alternative.

Now, we all know that a speech alone won’t produce peace. But based on over 30 years of experience and the lessons from the past 4 years, I have suggested, I believe, and President Obama has signed on to and believes in a path that the parties could take: realistic steps on the ground now, consistent with the parties’ own prior commitments, that will begin the process of separating into two states; a political horizon to work towards to create the conditions for a successful final status talk; and a basis for negotiations that the parties could accept to demonstrate that they are serious about making peace.

We can only encourage them to take this path; we cannot walk down it for them. But if they take these steps, peace would bring extraordinary benefits in enhancing the security and the stability and the prosperity of Israelis, Palestinians, all of the nations of the region. The Palestinian economy has amazing potential in the context of independence, with major private sector investment possibilities and a talented, hungry, eager-to-work young workforce. Israel’s economy could enjoy unprecedented growth as it becomes a regional economic powerhouse, taking advantage of the unparalleled culture of innovation and trading opportunities with new Arab partners. Meanwhile, security challenges could be addressed by an entirely new security arrangement, in which Israel cooperates openly with key Arab states. That is the future that everybody should be working for.

President Obama and I know that the incoming administration has signaled that they may take a different path, and even suggested breaking from the longstanding U.S. policies on settlements, Jerusalem, and the possibility of a two-state solution. That is for them to decide. That’s how we work. But we cannot – in good conscience – do nothing, and say nothing, when we see the hope of peace slipping away.

This is a time to stand up for what is right. We have long known what two states living side by side in peace and security looks like. We should not be afraid to say so.

Now, I really began to reflect on what we have learned – and the way ahead – when I recently joined President Obama in Jerusalem for the state funeral for Shimon Peres. Shimon was one of the founding fathers of Israel who became one of the world’s great elder statesmen – a beautiful man. I was proud to call him my friend, and I know that President Obama was as well.

And I remembered the first time that I saw Shimon in person – standing on the White House lawn for the signing the historic Oslo Accords. And I thought about the last time, at an intimate one-on-one Shabbat dinner just a few months before he died, when we toasted together to the future of Israel and to the peace that he still so passionately believed in for his people.

He summed it up simply and eloquently, as only Shimon could, quote, “The original mandate gave the Palestinians 48 percent, now it’s down to 22 percent. I think 78 percent is enough for us.”

As we laid Shimon to rest that day, many of us couldn’t help but wonder if peace between Israelis and Palestinians might also be buried along with one of its most eloquent champions. We cannot let that happen. There is simply too much at stake – for future generations of Israelis and Palestinians – to give in to pessimism, especially when peace is, in fact, still possible.

We must not lose hope in the possibility of peace. We must not give in to those who say what is now must always be, that there is no chance for a better future. It is up to Israelis and Palestinians to make the difficult choices for peace, but we can all help. And for the sake of future generations of Israelis and Palestinians, for all the people of the region, for the United States, for all those around the world who have prayed for and worked for peace for generations, let’s hope that we are all prepared – and particularly Israelis and Palestinians – to make those choices now.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 25, 2016: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks on US Abstaining on UN Security Council Resolution 2334

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks at the Start of the Weekly Cabinet Meeting  25/12/2016

Source: PMO,  12-25-16


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, made the following remarks:
[Translated from Hebrew]
“I share ministers’ feelings, anger and frustration vis-à-vis the unbalanced resolution that is very hostile to the State of Israel, and which the [UN] Security Council passed in an unworthy manner. From the information that we have, we have no doubt that the Obama administration initiated it, stood behind it, coordinated on the wording and demanded that it be passed. This is, of course, in complete contradiction of the traditional American policy that was committed to not trying to dictate terms for a permanent agreement, like any issue related to them in the Security Council, and, of course, the explicit commitment of President Obama himself, in 2011, to refrain from such steps.
We will do whatever is necessary so that Israel will not be damaged by this shameful resolution and I also tell the ministers here, we must act prudently, responsibly and calmly, in both actions and words. I ask ministers to act responsibly as per the directives that will be given today at the Security Cabinet meeting immediately following this meeting. I have also asked the Foreign Ministry to prepare an action plan regarding the UN and other international elements, which will be submitted to the Security Cabinet within one month. Until then, of course, we will consider our steps.”
[English]
“Over decades, American administrations and Israeli governments had disagreed about settlements, but we agreed that the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue. We knew that going there would make negotiations harder and drive peace further away.

And, as I told John Kerry on Thursday, friends don’t take friends to the Security Council. I’m encouraged by the statements of our friends in the United States, Republicans and Democrats alike. They understand how reckless and destructive this UN resolution was, they understand that the Western Wall isn’t occupied territory.
I look forward to working with those friends and with the new administration when it takes office next month. And I take this opportunity to wish Israel’s Christian citizens and our Christian friends around the world a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 23, 2016: U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s Full Speech at the Security Council after the passage of UNSC Resolution 2334 Transcript

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U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power’s Full Speech at the Security Council

Source: Haaretz, 12-23-16

The full text of Samantha Power’s address to the Security Council concerning the resolution against Israeli settlements.

The full text of Samantha Power’s address to the United Nations Security Council concerning the resolution against Israeli settlements, on Dec 23rd 2016
Thank you, Mr. President.

Let me begin with a quote: “The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”

This was said in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. He was speaking about a new proposal that he was launching to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While ultimately, of course, President Reagan’s proposal was not realized, his words are still illuminating in at least two respects.
First, because they underscore the United States’ deep and long-standing commitment to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. That has been the policy of every administration, Republican and Democrat, since before President Reagan and all the way through to the present day.

Second, because President Reagan’s words highlight the United States’ long-standing position that Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermines Israel’s security, harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region. Today, the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending the message that the settlements must stop – privately and publicly – for nearly five decades, through the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama. Indeed, since 1967, the only president who had not had at least one Israeli-Palestinian-related Security Council resolution pass during his tenure is Barack Obama. So our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American Presidents have approached both the issue – and the role of this body.

Given the consistency of this position across U.S. administrations, one would think that it would be a routine vote for the U.S. to allow the passage of a resolution with the elements in this one, reaffirming the long-standing U.S. position on settlements, condemning violence and incitement, and calling for the parties to start taking constructive steps to reverse current trends on the ground. These are familiar, well-articulated components of U.S. policy.

But in reality this vote for us was not straightforward, because of where it is taking place – at the United Nations. For the simple truth is that for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations. And not only in decades past – such as in the infamous resolution that the General Assembly adopted in 1975, with the support of the majority of Member States, officially determining that, “Zionism is a form of racism” – but also in 2016, this year. One need only look at the 18 resolutions against Israel adopted during the UN General Assembly in September; or the 12 Israel-specific resolutions adopted this year in the Human Rights Council – more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran, and South Sudan put together – to see that in 2016 Israel continues to be treated differently from other Member States.

Like U.S. administrations before it, the Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to fight for Israel’s right simply to be treated just like any other country – from advocating for Israel to finally be granted membership to a UN regional body, something no other UN Member State had been denied; to fighting to ensure that Israeli NGOs are not denied UN accreditation, simply because they are Israeli, to getting Yom Kippur finally recognized as a UN holiday; to pressing this Council to break its indefensible silence in response to terrorist attacks on Israelis. As the United States has said repeatedly, such unequal treatment not only hurts Israel, it undermines the legitimacy of the United Nations itself.

The practice of treating Israel differently at the UN matters for votes like this one. For even if one believes that the resolution proposed today is justified – or, even more, necessitated – by events on the ground, one cannot completely separate the vote from the venue.

And Member States that say they are for the two-state solution must ask themselves some difficult questions. For those states that are quick to promote resolutions condemning Israel, but refuse to recognize when innocent Israelis are the victims of terrorism – what steps will you take to stop treating Israel differently? For those states that passionately denounce the closures of crossings in Gaza as exacerbating the humanitarian situation, but saying nothing of the resources diverted from helping Gaza’s residents to dig tunnels into Israeli territory so that terrorists can attack Israelis in their homes – what will you do to end the double-standard that undermines the legitimacy of this institution?

Member States should also ask themselves about the double standards when it comes to this Council taking action. Just this morning we came together, as a Council, and we were unable to muster the will to act to stop the flow of weapons going to killers in South Sudan, who are perpetrating mass atrocities that the UN has said could lead to genocide. We couldn’t come together just to stem the flow of arms. Earlier this month, this Council could not muster the will to adopt the simplest of resolutions calling for a seven-day pause in the savage bombardment of innocent civilians, hospitals, and schools in Aleppo. Yet when a resolution on Israel comes before this Council, members suddenly summon the will to act.

It is because this forum too often continues to be biased against Israel; because there are important issues that are not sufficiently addressed in this resolution; and because the United States does not agree with every word in this text, that the United States did not vote in favor of the resolution. But it is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground – and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administration throughout the history of the State of Israel – that the United States did not veto it.

The United States has consistently said we would block any resolution that we thought would undermine Israel’s security or seek to impose a resolution to the conflict. We would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians such as terrorism and incitement to violence, which we’ve repeatedly condemned and repeatedly raised with the Palestinian leadership, and which, of course, must be stopped.

Unlike some on the UN Security Council, we do not believe that outside parties can impose a solution that has not been negotiated by the two parties. Nor can we unilaterally recognize a future Palestinian state. But it is precisely our commitment to Israel’s security that makes the United States believe that we cannot stand in the way of this resolution as we seek to preserve a chance of attaining our long-standing objective: two states living side-by-side in peace and security. Let me briefly explain why.

The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution. The number of settlers in the roughly 150 authorized Israeli settlements east of the 1967 lines has increased dramatically. Since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords – which launched efforts that made a comprehensive and lasting peace possible – the number of settlers has increased by 355,000. The total settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem now exceeds 590,000. Nearly 90,000 settlers are living east of the separation barrier that was created by Israel itself. And just since July 2016 – when the Middle East Quartet issued a report highlighting international concern about a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions, and legalizations – Israel has advanced plans for more than 2,600 new settlement units. Yet rather than dismantling these and other settler outposts, which are illegal even under Israeli law, now there is new legislation advancing in the Israeli Knesset that would legalize most of the outposts – a factor that propelled the decision by this resolution’s sponsors to bring it before the Council.

The Israeli Prime Minister recently described his government as “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history,” and one of his leading coalition partners recently declared that “the era of the two-state solution is over.” At the same time, the Prime Minister has said that he is still committed to pursuing a two-state solution. But these statements are irreconcilable. One cannot simultaneously champion expanding Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution that would end the conflict. One has to make a choice between settlements and separation.

In 2011, the United States vetoed a resolution that focused exclusively on settlements, as if settlements were they only factor harming the prospects of a two-state solution. The circumstances have changed dramatically. Since 2011, settlement growth has only accelerated. Since 2011, multiple efforts to pursue peace through negotiations have failed. And since 2011, President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly warned – publically and privately – that the absence of progress toward peace and continued settlement expansion was going to put the two-state solution at risk, and threaten Israel’s stated objective to remain both a Jewish State and a democracy. Moreover, unlike in 2011, this resolution condemns violence, terrorism and incitement, which also poses an extremely grave risk to the two-state solution. This resolution reflects trends that will permanently destroy the hope of a two-state solution if they continue on their current course.

The United States has not taken the step of voting in support of this resolution because the resolution is too narrowly focused on settlements, when we all know – or we all should know – that many other factors contribute significantly to the tensions that perpetuate this conflict. Let us be clear: even if every single settlement were to be dismantled tomorrow, peace still would not be attainable without both sides acknowledging uncomfortable truths and making difficult choices. That is an indisputable fact. Yet it is one that is too often overlooked by members of the United Nations and by members of this Council.

For Palestinian leaders, that means recognizing the obvious: that in addition to taking innocent lives – the incitement to violence, the glorification of terrorists, and the growth of violent extremism erodes prospects for peace, as this resolution makes crystal clear. The most recent wave of Palestinian violence has seen terrorists commit hundreds of attacks – including driving cars into crowds of innocent civilians and stabbing mothers in front of their children. Yet rather than condemn these attacks, Hamas, other radical factions, and even certain members of Fatah have held up the terrorists as heroes, and used social media to incite others to follow in their murderous footsteps. And while President Abbas and his party’s leaders have made clear their opposition to violence, terrorism, and extremism, they have too often failed to condemn specific attacks or condemn the praised heaped upon the perpetrators.

Our vote today does not in any way diminish the United States’ steadfast and unparalleled commitment to the security of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. We would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by Palestinians. We have to recognize that Israel faces very serious threats in a very tough neighborhood. Israelis are rightfully concerned about making sure there is not a new terrorist haven next door. President Obama and this administration have shown an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security because that is what we believe in.

Our commitment to that security has never wavered, and it never will. Even with a financial crisis and budget deficits, we’ve repeatedly increased funding to support Israel’s military. And in September, the Obama administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide $38 billion in security assistance to Israel over the next 10 years – the largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history to any country. And as the Israeli Prime Minister himself has noted, our military and intelligence cooperation is unprecedented. We believe, though, that continued settlement building seriously undermines Israel’s security.

Some may cast the U.S. vote as a sign that we have finally given up on a two-state solution. Nothing could be further from the truth. None of us can give up on a two-state solution. We continue to believe that that solution is the only viable path to provide peace and security for the state of Israel, and freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. And we continue to believe that the parties can still pursue this path, if both sides are honest about the choices, and have the courage to take steps that will be politically difficult. While we can encourage them, it is ultimately up to the parties to choose this path, as it always has been. We sincerely hope that they will begin making these choices before it is too late.

I thank you.

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 30, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Memorial Service for Former Israeli President Shimon Peres Transcript

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Remarks by President Obama at Memorial Service for Former Israeli President Shimon Peres

Source: WH,  9-30-16

Mount Herzl

Jerusalem

11:14 A.M. IDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Zvia, Yoni, Chemi and generations of the Peres family; President Rivlin; Prime Minister Netanyahu; members of the Israeli government and the Knesset; heads of state and the government and guests from around the world, including President Abbas, whose presence here is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace; to the people of Israel:  I could not be more honored to be in Jerusalem to say farewell to my friend Shimon Peres, who showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea.

A free life, in a homeland regained.  A secure life, in a nation that can defend itself, by itself.  A full life, in friendship with nations who can be counted on as allies, always.  A bountiful life, driven by simple pleasures of family and by big dreams.  This was Shimon Peres’s life.  This is the State of Israel.  This is the story of the Jewish people over the last century, and it was made possible by a founding generation that counts Shimon as one of its own.

Shimon once said, “The message of the Jewish people to mankind is that faith and moral vision can triumph over all adversity.”  For Shimon, that moral vision was rooted in an honest reckoning of the world as it is.  Born in the shtetl, he said he felt, “surrounded by a sea of thick and threatening forests.”  When his family got the chance to go to Palestine, his beloved grandfather’s parting words were simple:  “Shimon, stay a Jew.”  Propelled with that faith, he found his home.  He found his purpose.  He found his life’s work.  But he was still a teenager when his grandfather was burned alive by the Nazis in the town where Shimon was born.  The synagogue in which he prayed became an inferno.  The railroad tracks that had carried him toward the Promised Land also delivered so many of his people to death camps.

And so from an early age, Shimon bore witness to the cruelty that human beings could inflict on each other, the ways that one group of people could dehumanize another; the particular madness of anti-Semitism, which has run like a stain through history.  That understanding of man’s ever-present sinfulness would steel him against hardship and make him vigilant against threats to Jewry around the world.

But that understanding would never harden his heart.  It would never extinguish his faith.  Instead, it broadened his moral imagination, and gave him the capacity to see all people as deserving of dignity and respect.  It helped him see not just the world as it is, but the world as it should be.

What Shimon did to shape the story of Israel is well-chronicled.  Starting on the kibbutz he founded with his love Sonya, he began the work of building a model community.  Ben Gurion called him to serve the Haganah at headquarters to make sure that the Jewish people had the armaments and the organization to secure their freedom.  After independence, surrounded by enemies who denied Israel’s existence and sought to drive it into the sea, the child who had wanted to be a “poet of stars” became a man who built Israel’s defense industry, who laid the foundation for the formidable armed forces that won Israel’s wars.  His skill secured Israel’s strategic position. His boldness sent Israeli commandos to Entebbe, and rescued Jews from Ethiopia.  His statesmanship built an unbreakable bond with the United States of America and so many other countries.

His contributions didn’t end there.  Shimon also showed what people can do when they harness reason and science to a common cause.  He understood that a country without many natural resources could more than make up for it with the talents of its people.  He made hard choices to roll back inflation and climb up from a terrible economic crisis.  He championed the promise of science and technology to make the desert bloom, and turned this tiny country into a central hub of the digital age, making life better not just for people here, but for people around the world.

Indeed, Shimon’s contribution to this nation is so fundamental, so pervasive, that perhaps sometimes they can be overlooked.  For a younger generation, Shimon was probably remembered more for a peace process that never reached its endpoint.  They would listen to critics on the left who might argue that Shimon did not fully acknowledge the failings of his nation, or perhaps more numerous critics on the right who argued that he refused to see the true wickedness of the world, and called him naïve.

But whatever he shared with his family or his closest friends, to the world he brushed off the critics.  And I know from my conversations with him that his pursuit of peace was never naïve.  Every Yom HaShoah, he read the names of the family that he lost.  As a young man, he had fed his village by working in the fields during the day, but then defending it by carrying a rifle at night.  He understood, in this war-torn region, where too often Arab youth are taught to hate Israel from an early age — he understood just how hard peace would be.  I’m sure he was alternatively angry and bemused to hear the same critics, who called him hopelessly naïve, depend on the defense architecture that he himself had helped to build.

I don’t believe he was naïve.  But he understood from hard-earned experience that true security comes through making peace with your neighbors.  “We won them all,” he said of Israel’s wars.  “But we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to: release from the need to win victories.”

And just as he understood the practical necessity of peace, Shimon believed that Israel’s exceptionalism was rooted not only in fidelity to the Jewish people, but to the moral and ethical vision, the precepts of his Jewish faith.  “The Jewish people weren’t born to rule another people,” he would say.  “From the very first day we are against slaves and masters.”

Out of the hardships of the diaspora, he found room in his heart for others who suffered.  He came to hate prejudice with the passion of one who knows how it feels to be its target.  Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews, and must therefore be equal in self-determination.  Because of his sense of justice, his analysis of Israel’s security, his understanding of Israel’s meaning, he believed that the Zionist idea would be best protected when Palestinians, too, had a state of their own.

Of course, we gather here in the knowledge that Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled.  The region is going through a chaotic time.  Threats are ever present.  And yet, he did not stop dreaming, and he did not stop working.  By the time that I came to work with Shimon, he was in the twilight of his years — although he might not admit it.  I would be the 10th U.S. President since John F. Kennedy to sit down with Shimon; the 10th to fall prey to his charms.  I think of him sitting in the Oval Office, this final member of Israel’s founding generation, under the portrait of George Washington, telling me stories from the past, but more often talking with enthusiasm of the present — his most recent lecture, his next project, his plans for the future, the wonders of his grandchildren.

In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I’ve had the honor to meet — men like Nelson Mandela; women like Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth — leaders who have seen so much, whose lives span such momentous epochs, that they find no need to posture or traffic in what’s popular in the moment; people who speak with depth and knowledge, not in sound bites.  They find no interest in polls or fads.

And like these leaders, Shimon could be true to his convictions even if they cut against the grain of current opinion.  He knew, better than the cynic, that if you look out over the arc of history, human beings should be filled not with fear but with hope.  I’m sure that’s why he was so excited about technology — because for him, it symbolized the march of human progress.  And it’s why he loved so much to talk about young people — because he saw young people unburdened by the prejudices of the past.  It’s why he believed in miracles — because in Israel, he saw a miracle come true.

As Americans and Israelis, we often talk about the unbreakable bonds between our nations.  And, yes, these bonds encompass common interests — vital cooperation that makes both our nations more secure.  But today we are reminded that the bonds which matter most run deeper.  Anchored in a Judeo-Christian tradition, we believe in the irreducible value of every human being.  Our nations were built on that idea.  They were built in large part by stubborn idealists and striving immigrants, including those who had fled war and fled oppression.  Both our nations have flaws that we have not always fixed, corners of our history which date back to our founding that we do not always squarely address.  But because our founders planted not just flags in the eternal soil, but also planted the seeds of democracy, we have the ability to always pursue a better world.  We have the capacity to do what is right.

As an American, as a Christian, a person partly of African descent, born in Hawaii — a place that could not be further than where Shimon spent his youth — I took great pleasure in my friendship with this older, wiser man.  We shared a love of words and books and history.  And perhaps, like most politicians, we shared too great a joy in hearing ourselves talk.  But beyond that, I think our friendship was rooted in the fact that I could somehow see myself in his story, and maybe he could see himself in mine.  Because for all of our differences, both of us had lived such unlikely lives.  It was so surprising to see the two of us where we had started, talking together in the White House, meeting here in Israel.  And I think both of us understood that we were here only because in some way we reflected the magnificent story of our nations.

Shimon’s story, the story of Israel, the experience of the Jewish people, I believe it is universal.  It’s the story of a people who, over so many centuries in the wilderness, never gave up on that basic human longing to return home.  It’s the story of a people who suffered the boot of oppression and the shutting of the gas chamber’s door, and yet never gave up on a belief in goodness.  And it’s the story of a man who was counted on, and then often counted out, again and again, and who never lost hope.

Shimon Peres reminds us that the State of Israel, like the United States of America, was not built by cynics.  We exist because people before us refused to be constrained by the past or the difficulties of the present.  And Shimon Peres was never cynical.  It is that faith, that optimism, that belief — even when all the evidence is to the contrary — that tomorrow can be better, that makes us not just honor Shimon Peres, but love him.

The last of the founding generation is now gone.  Shimon accomplished enough things in his life for a thousand men.  But he understood that it is better to live to the very end of his time on Earth with a longing not for the past but for the dreams that have not yet come true — an Israel that is secure in a just and lasting peace with its neighbors.  And so now this work is in the hand of Israel’s next generation, in the hands of Israel’s next generation and its friends.

Like Joshua, we feel the weight of responsibility that Shimon seemed to wear so lightly.  But we draw strength from his example and the fact that he believed in us — even when we doubted ourselves.

Scripture tells us that before his death, Moses said, “I call upon heaven and earth to bear witness this day that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.”

Uvacharta Bachayim.  Choose life.  For Shimon, let us choose life, as he always did.  Let us make his work our own. May God bless his memory.  And may God bless this country, and this world, that he loved so dearly.

Shimon: Todah Rabah Chaver Yakar.

END
11:37 A.M. IDT

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 21, 2016: President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Remarks Before Bilateral Meeting Transcript

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

Source: WH, 9-21-16

Lotte New York Palace Hotel
New York, New York

12:58 P.M. EDT

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Mr. President, it’s very good to see you again.  First, I want to thank you for the Memorandum of Understanding that we signed last week.  It greatly enhances Israel’s security.  It fortifies the principle that you’ve enunciated many times that Israel should be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

Secondly, I want to thank you for the extensive security and intelligence cooperation between our two countries.  I don’t think people at large understand the breadth and depth of this cooperation, but I know it.  And I want to thank you on behalf of all the people of Israel.

Third, I want to thank you for the many meetings we’ve had in which we discussed how to confront common challenges and how to seize common opportunities.  The greatest challenge is, of course, the unremitting fanaticism.  The greatest opportunity is to advance a global peace.  That’s a goal that I and the people of Israel will never give up on.

We’ve been fortunate that, in pursuing these two tasks, Israel has no greater friend than the United States of America, and America has no greater friend than Israel.  Our alliance has grown decade after decade, through successive presidents, a bipartisan Congress, and the overwhelming support of the American people.  It’s an unbreakable bond based on common values, buttressed by common interest, and bound by a shared destiny.

And I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to once again discuss how we can shape that destiny together.  And I’d like to add, if I may, one final point.  As you conclude your presidency, I know you’re going to be busy with many, many things, much more than improving what I hear is a terrific golf game.  (Laughter.)  Your voice, your influential voice will be heard for many decades.  And I know you’ll continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself and its right to thrive as a Jewish state.  So I want you to know, Barack, that you’ll always be a welcome guest in Israel.

And, by the way, I don’t play golf, but right next to my home in Caesarea, in Israel, is a terrific golf course.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We’ll set up a tee time.  (Laughter.)

Thank you.  Thank you so much.

Well, it’s good to once again welcome Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation here.  I want to start by just sending a message that all of the American people, my entire administration, and me, personally, are thinking about Shimon Peres — a great friend, a hero, and giant in the history of Israel.  And we are hopeful that he will have a speedy recovery.
I’ve always joked whenever I’ve seen Shimon that I wanted to see what he ate and what he did, because he’s always looked so good.  I know this has been a challenging time for him and his family, but I wanted to make sure that I relay my gratitude to him for his friendship and his leadership, and helping to forge a strong U.S.-Israeli bond.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu mentioned, the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable.  It is based on common values, family ties, a recognition that a Jewish state of Israel is one of our most important allies, and a guiding principle throughout my presidency — one that I’ve expressed often to the Prime Minister — is, is that it is important for America’s national security to ensure that we have a safe and secure Israel, one that can defend itself.

And so the Memorandum of Understanding that we recently signed I think is indicative of that.  What it does is provide an assurance and a foundation for the kinds of ongoing military and intelligence cooperation that has been the hallmark of our relationship.  It allows I think Israeli planners the kind of certainty in a moment where there’s enormous uncertainty in the region.  It is a very difficult and dangerous time in the Middle East, and we want to make sure that Israel has the full capabilities it needs in order to keep the Israeli people safe and secure.

This will give us an opportunity to talk about the challenges that arise out of situations like Syria.  I’ll also be interested in hearing from the Prime Minister his assessment of conditions within Israel and in the West Bank.  Obviously, our hearts go out to those who have been injured, both Israeli and Palestinian.  Clearly, there is great danger of not just terrorism, but also flare-ups of violence.  We do have concerns around settlement activity, as well.  And our hope is that we can continue to be an effective partner with Israel in finding a path to peace.

Obviously, I’m only going to be President for another few months.  The Prime Minister will be there quite a bit longer.  And our hope will be that in these conversations we get a sense of how Israel sees the next few years, what the opportunities are and what the challenges are in order to assure that we keep alive the possibility of a stable, secure Israel at peace with its neighbors, and a Palestinian homeland that meets the aspirations of their people.

But obviously, these are challenging times.  One thing I can say about Prime Minister Netanyahu is he has always been candid with us, and his team has cooperated very effectively with ours. We very much appreciate it.  And I guarantee you that I will visit Israel often, because it is a beautiful country with beautiful people.  And Michelle and the girls I think resent the fact that I’ve not taken them on most of these trips, so they’re insistent that I do take them.  Of course, they will appreciate the fact that the next time I visit Israel I won’t have to sit in bilats — (laughter) — but instead can enjoy the sights and sounds of a remarkable country.

So thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.

END

1:06 P.M. EDT

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 20, 2016: Vice President Joe Biden’s Speech to the 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference

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Israel Political Brief March 20-22, 2016: 2016 AIPAC Policy Conference Schedule

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General Sessions

Source: AIPAC

Sunday Evening, March 20

Joe Biden
Joe Biden
Vice President of the United States
Watch live stream starting at 7 p.m. ET.

Monday Morning, March 21

Watch live stream starting at 8 a.m. ET.
Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton
Democratic Presidential Candidate

Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
House Majority Leader

Steny Hoyer
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
House Democratic Whip

Isaac Herzog
Isaac Herzog
Chairman of Zionist Union and Leader of the Opposition
Israeli Knesset

Monday Evening, March 21

Watch live stream starting at 5 p.m. ET.
Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz
Republican Presidential Candidate

John Kasich
John Kasich
Republican Presidential Candidate

Donald Trump
Donald Trump
Republican Presidential Candidate

Paul Ryan
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Tuesday Morning, March 22

Watch live stream starting at 8 a.m. ET.
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel
(Address via Satellite)

Robert Menendez
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
Senate Foreign Relations Committee

 

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 9, 2016: PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Vice President Joe Biden in a joint statement transcript

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PM Netanyahu and Vice President Joe Biden in a joint statement

Source: PMO, 3-9-16
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this morning issued the following statement at the start of his meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden:

“Mr. Vice President, Joe, it’s good to welcome you again in Jerusalem. You’re here with your wife Jill and your wonderful family: your daughter-in-law Hallie, your grandchildren Natalie and Hunter. And I hope you feel at home here in Israel because the people of Israel consider the Biden family part of our family. You’re part of our mishpucha. And I want to thank you personally for your, for our personal friendship of over 30 years. We’ve known each other a long time. We’ve gone through many trials and tribulations. And we have an enduring bond that represents the enduring bond between our people.

As you well know, the last 24 hours have been very difficult for Israel, including this morning. Twelve people were injured in five terrorist attacks. An American citizen, Taylor Force, was murdered. Taylor was a graduate of West Point, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, a graduate student of Vanderbilt University. And I want to extend our deepest condolences to his family and wish the injured a speedy recovery. And I know I speak for you because you’ve said these very words.

Joe, I appreciate your strong condemnation of terrorism. Nothing justifies these attacks. But unfortunately President Abbas has not only refused to condemn these terrorist attacks, his Fatah party actually praised the murderer of this American citizen as a Palestinian martyr and a hero.

Now, this is wrong. And this failure to condemn terrorism should be condemned itself by everybody in the international community.

We have taken many steps in recent months to fight Palestinian terrorism, and we’re taking even stronger measures now.

I believe that to fight terror, all civilized societies must stand together. And while Israel has many partners in this decisive battle, we have no better partner than the United States of America. It’s a partnership anchored in common values, confronting common enemies and striving for a more secure, prosperous and peaceful future.

I see your visit here as an opportunity for us to further strengthen this great partnership. We’ve just been discussing some of the challenges we face. The first one is the persistent incitement in Palestinian society that glorifies murderers of innocent people, and calls for a Palestinian state not to live in peace with Israel, but to replace Israel. And we are witnessing, regrettably, the collapse of states throughout the Middle East, the rise of ISIS and Iran’s relentless aggression and terror in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, the Golan and Gaza, and elsewhere in the region and around the world.

But we’re also standing before great opportunities, and I think some of them stem from these great challenges. The first opportunity is to deepen ties between Israel and the moderate Arab states, and this could help us build a solid foundation for peace and stability. We can also make Israel energy independent, an exporter of natural gas to the region and beyond. And we can use Israel’s advanced technology to continue to better our world – in agriculture, in water, in cyber and in many other areas. And I know, Joe, that one area is particularly close to your heart. We were discussing that just now – the battle against cancer in which you are taking a leading role.

Israel is making important strides in this field, and I have no doubt that Israel can contribute even more by working together with the United States of America. And that’s just true across the board, in every field. America and Israel are stronger when we work together. So I look forward to continuing to work together with you and President Obama to strengthen the remarkable and unbreakable alliance between our two countries.

Joe, my friend, welcome to Jerusalem.”
US Vice President Joe Biden issued the following statement at the start of his meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

“It’s true that Prime Minister Bibi and I go back a long way. I joked some time, a long time ago when you were at the Israeli consulate, we met outside of a, in a parking lot outside of a restaurant where I was meeting with some American Jewish leaders, and we became close friends and I later signed a picture for you that I, as a joke I said ‘Bibi, I don’t agree with a damn thing you say, but I love you.’ And the joke was, I would have been a member of the Labour party, not the Likud party. We were joking about what party we’d be in.

We’ve been friends, our families have been friends, you have come to know my sons, my daughter you’ve met, and I have made it an important part of my family’s life that as my children and grandchildren approach the age of 15, the first place I’ve taken them is in Europe, to Dachau, the second place is to Israel. And my deceased son Beau who died eight months ago – and thank you for your great personal concern, and I know you knew him – I brought along his two children who are ten and twelve, whose grandmother is Jewish and got raised in a Jewish family, their mum, because I want them to see that they’re not too young to understand all of what you talked about: that this is a commitment that goes deeper than security, and I appreciate your welcome. And my granddaughter, love of my life named after my deceased daughter Naomi, she’s coming, she’s on a visit here with her boyfriend whose family lives here, she’s a senior at Penn.

But all kidding aside, it’s been a close relationship. And it’s been one that is of consequence not only for Israel but for the United States and for freedom loving people all over the world. But as you said, we started our discussion about the most recent heinous terrorist attack yesterday in Jaffa and Jerusalem and Petah Tikva, my wife and my two grandchildren and granddaughter are having dinner on the beach not very far from where that happened. I don’t know exactly whether it’s 100 meters or 1,000 meters, and it just brings home that it can happen.

It can happen anywhere at any time. And what Bibi and I talked about was not just the death of Taylor, Taylor Force who served two tours, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, West Point graduate, a brilliant future. But we talked about the other wounded and the students he was with, and our instinct was the same. We both said ‘Let’s go to the hospital. Now. Let’s go see them. Let’s go see the families and meet with them.’

The reason I cite that, and as a personal note, is the instinct is the same ‘Let’s go see; let’s go touch; let’s go let those families know how much we care about them; let them know that that expression ‘if you don’t go get the terrorist, they’ll come to you.’’ And we’re dealing with it all over the world. So my condolences to Taylor’s family and all those who were victims of the attack yesterday and every day.

Let me say in no uncertain terms: the United States of America condemns these acts and condemns the failure to condemn these acts. This cannot become an accepted modus operandi. This cannot be viewed by civilized leaders as an appropriate way in which to behave even if it appears to inure to the benefit of one side or the other. It’s just not tolerable in the 21st century. They’re targeting innocent civilians, mothers, pregnant women, teenagers, grandfathers, American citizens. There can be no justification for this hateful violence, and the United States stands firmly behind Israel’s right to defend itself as we are defending ourselves at this moment as well.

That’s why we’ve done more to bolster, help bolster Israel’s security than any other administration in history. Across the board we’ve raised our security cooperation and military intelligence fields to unprecedented levels. And we’ve provided a historical amount of security assistance. We’ve ensure Israel has the most advanced weapons, including one of the most effective missile defense systems in the world. At the same time we are struggling to increase our missile defense capability because of the threat from North Korea.

It doesn’t mean we don’t disagree, but you never need to doubt that the United States of America has Israel’s back. And we know Israel has our back as well, I might add. It’s not a one way street. We’re committed to making sure that Israel can defend itself against all serious threats, maintain its qualitative edge with a quality, a quantity sufficient to maintain that. And it’s critical because Israel lives, as Bibi knows better than anyone, lives in a very, very tough neighborhood – a tough and changing neighborhood. Living some little sense of hope, but an awful lot of consternation.

All has changed since I started coming here when I first met with Golda Meir, and her assistant, a fellow named Rabin. I sat across the desk for an hour as she flipped those maps up and down, chain smoking, telling me about the Six Day War. And I had just come from Egypt and I was one of the few people allowed to go to the Suez Canal, I’m still not sure why. And all this activity was occurring in the desert, they kept telling me it was sand storms. And I came back and I said to the Prime Minister, I think there’s going to be another war. I think they’re getting ready to go to war again.

Well, several months later the Yom Kippur war occurred. I was just a rooky; I had no idea what it was. But I’ll never forget from that moment on, the intensity of the relationship has grown, but the face of the enemy has changed. The face of the enemy has changed and morphed in many ways.

But it also presents some small opportunity. And that is that that’s why it’s absolutely… we’re united in the belief that a nuclear armed Iran is an absolutely unacceptable threat to Israel, to the region and to the United States. And I want to reiterate which I know people still doubt here. If in fact they break the deal, we will act. We will act. And all their conventional activity outside of the deal is still beyond the deal, and we will and are attempting to act wherever we can find it.

And together we’re seeking ways to advance our shared security interests and address, as I said, the new realities of the region. I just came from two days in the UAE, I’ll be heading to Jordan, I was at the Camp David conference, the GCC’s meeting with the President later in April, and as I said, I spend a lot of time as you do with the King of Jordan, I’m heading over from here to see him, and I want to make a couple points.

If you had talked in the region as a whole, four years ago, about whether any Arab states were under some conditions prepared to make peace, real peace with Israel, it would have been, at least I would have said, there’s no shot. Common enemies make the, you know, you know, the enemy… Anyway, you get the torrent. And so I think there are possibilities here. I did not come with a plan. I just came to speak to a friend and to be able to have an open discussion in a closed room, where we brainstorm the whole range of things.

But it is not all hopeless. It is not all hopeless. We will crush Daesh. We will crush ISIS. Together we will crush them. They will not be sustained. I promise you. It will take time, but they will not be sustained. And they’re losing ground every day in Syria, but really losing ground – they’ve lost 40% of the ground they had in Iraq. It’s hard. It’s difficult. But it requires coalitions. It requires cooperation. Most of all, it requires people realizing what their self-interest is. And as we Catholics say, these folks have had an epiphany. They’ve realized that they’d rather be in your orbit than in the orbit of Daesh and ISIS and terrorism, and al-Nusra, et cetera.

And so, if we’re lucky and smart and tenacious, over the next six months, year, eighteen months, we can actually make some real progress. But progress always requires taking a chance and that’s one of the things we’re going to discuss.

And so, I’m here in the region to discuss shared threats that we face and how to advance common security. That includes seeking resolutions to the crisis in Syria and our shared commitment to destroying ISIL. Bibi and I talked very, just a few moments ago. I doubt that you would have thought either of us, was saying as old friends, you know, it’s good we’re cooperating with Russia in Syria. Right? I mean, that would not have come out of either one of our mouths – at least mine – four or five years ago, but the truth is Russia has seen the Lord on some of these issues as well.

It also includes our efforts to ensure that Iran complies with its obligations under the nuclear deal and jointly address the remaining challenges Iran poses to the region. And I’m also back here in Israel to talk to Bibi about the great opportunities that exist in the region, especially new opportunities relating to energy. It’s funny that in the last five years the United States, North America, has become the epicenter of energy in the world. Well, guess what? Little old Israel is about to become the epicenter of energy in this entire region, and can have a profound, profound positive impact on relationships from Egypt to Turkey to Cyprus to Greece to Jordan. And it’s not easy getting there, but you have the tools now to be able to get there. And so, you know, the only way to assure, in my view, the future of a Jewish, democratic State of Israel – and by the way, that’s what in ’48 it called for, a Jewish state, okay? We should get over all of this. It was a Jewish state that was set up – is that the status quo has to break somewhere along the line here in terms of a two state solution. Even though it may be hard to see the way ahead, we continue encourage all sides to take steps to move back toward the path to peace – not easy – and for the sake of Israel, and I might add, for the sake of the Palestinians in the region. But the kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop. There can’t be, there cannot be unilateral steps to undermine trust. That only takes us further away, further and further away from an outcome we know in our hearts is the only fundamental outcome, the only outcome that is the ultimate guarantor.

So what I want, I urge everyone to work to restore the calm for the Israelis and you’re already trying it, Bibi, and the Palestinians alike to… so they can go about their daily lives without fear – easier said than done – so that the vision of two states and two people can endure.

Bibi, I want to thank you again for your partnership and at a more personal level for your personal friendship, and I look forward to the discussions we are going to have today with our teams. On a personal note, I want to say how much I’m looking forward to my young grandchildren seeing everything from Yad Vashem to the Wall, the things that are the stuff of which cultures are made. I want them to understand for themselves that the relationship between the United States and Israel is more than the relationship of two governments. It’s a bond between people, forged a link by successive generations and grounded in an abiding commitment to Israel’s security – a bond that can never be broken. It’s something that Bibi knows I take personally and I assure you, so does the President.

So for, as I said, we’ve known each other a long time. We’ll probably, you know… When we get together, our key staffs have heart attacks, because we’re supposed to be meeting with all of them and we get talking and we just leave them all behind. We leave everything for them to straighten out. But it’s the nature of the friendship and it’s the nature of the relationship, so I still think, Bibi, there’s a lot we can get done.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief December 9, 2015: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Office Press Release on Donald Trump’s Plan to Ban Muslims from the United States

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Prime Minister’s Office Press Release on Donald Trump’s Recent Statement

Source: PMO, 12-9-15
Regarding Donald Trump’s recent statement, the Prime Minister’s Office issued the following:

“Prime Minister Netanyahu rejects Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Muslims.

The State of Israel respects all religions and strictly guarantees the rights of all its citizens. At the same time, Israel is fighting against militant Islam that targets Muslims, Christians and Jews alike and threatens the entire world.

As for the meeting with Mr. Trump that was set some two weeks ago, the Prime Minister decided earlier this year on a uniform policy to agree to meet with all presidential candidates from either party who visit Israel and ask for a meeting.

This policy does not represent an endorsement of any candidate or his or her views. Rather, it is an expression of the importance that Prime Minister Netanyahu attributes to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief November 24, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry’s Statements on Terrorism

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Statements by PM Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry

Source: PMO, 11-24-15


Statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry
Photo by Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State John Kerry met at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem and issued the following statements before their meeting:

Prime Minister Netanyahu

“Good morning, John. I’d like to welcome you again to Jerusalem.

You are a friend in our common effort to restore stability, security and peace. There can be no peace when we have an onslaught of terror – not here or not anywhere else in the world, which is experiencing this same assault by militant Islamists and the forces of terror. Israel is fighting these forces every hour. We are fighting them directly against the terrorists themselves; we’re fighting also against the sources of incitement. And we believe that the entire international community should support this effort. It’s not only our battle, it’s everyone’s battle. It’s the battle of civilization against barbarism.

Welcome, John.”

US Secretary of State Kerry

“Thank you.

Mr. Prime Minister, Bibi, thank you for welcoming me here, and for me, I am pleased to be back in Jerusalem, pleased to be back in Israel, though I come at a time that, as the Prime Minister has just said, is very troubled. Clearly, no people anywhere should live with daily violence, with attacks in the streets, with knives or scissors or cars. And it is very clear to us that the terrorism, these acts of terrorism which have been taking place, deserve the condemnation that they are receiving and today I expressed my complete condemnation for any act of terror that takes innocent lives and disrupts the day-to-day life of a nation.

Israel has every right in the world to defend itself. It has an obligation to defend itself. And it will and it is. Our thoughts and prayers are with innocent people who have been hurt in this process. I know that yesterday a soldier was killed and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who were wounded, their families. Regrettably, several Americans have also been killed in the course of these past weeks, and just yesterday I talked to the family of Ezra Schwartz from Massachusetts, a young man who came here out of high school, ready to go to college, excited about his future, and yesterday his family was sitting shiva and I talked to them and heard their feelings, the feelings of any parent for the loss of a child.

So I’m here today to talk with the Prime Minister about the ways that we can work together, all of us – the international community – to push back against terrorism, to push back against senseless violence and to find a way forward, to restore calm and to begin to provide the opportunities that most reasonable people in every part of the world are seeking for themselves and for their families.

We have much to talk about. There’s a lot happening in the region, as well as those events that are happening here in Israel. We are deeply concerned about Syria, about Daesh, about regional unrest. We all have an interest, needless to say, in working together against this spasm of violence that is interrupting too much of the daily life of too many nations.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your welcome. I’m pleased to be back here, to continue to work with you on these issues, and I thank you for your always generous welcome.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief November 9, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu at the AEI 2015 Irving Kristol Award Ceremony

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PM Netanyahu at the AEI 2015 Irving Kristol Award Ceremony

Source: PMO, 11-9-15


PM Netanyahu at the AEI 2015 Irving Kristol Award Ceremony
Photo by Haim Zah, GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today attended the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) Annual Dinner and presentation of the Irving Kristol Award. Following are excerpts from his remarks.

From the Prime Minister’s remarks on Israel-US relations:

“Common values, first. I think the values of freedom, free societies, the idea of individual choice that is enveloped with a collective purpose. And I think that defines Israel and defines America. These are two societies built on a purpose, on the idea of freedom. I’ve spoken in the Congress a number of times and each time I look and I see the emblem of Moses in the American Congress, and it says a lot. It’s the idea of the Promised Land, the land of freedom – freedom from bondage, freedom to pursue your future.

So I think this is the, I would say the identity of conviction. But there is something else that I think has to be seen in a historic context. We were a people scattered among the nations. We had no capacity to defend ourselves and by dint of historical regularity, we should have disappeared. Most nations that existed in the past do not exist today. And certainly a nation scattered from its land and becoming utterly defenseless, subject to the whims, the worst whims of humanity, should have disappeared. We gathered our resolve, came back to the Land of Israel, the Promised Land, rebuilt our country when we repossessed the power to defend ourselves.

But it was said here before that all powers, all countries, even great powers, need alliances. We need an alliance too. We did not have that alliance in the first half of the 20th century when the founding fathers of Zionism identified the threat of anti-Semitism, the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe, we had no capacity yet to build our nation. We built it having lost six million of our brethren. And I believe that if the United States had been the preeminent world power in the first half of the 20th century, things might have turned out differently.

And yet Israel was born in mid-century. The United States became the global power at that point. And what a difference it made. It made a difference for the entire world by guaranteeing liberty, by facing down Soviet totalitarianism. It made a difference for us in that we had a partner. And I think that not only the common ideals of Israel and the United States – and they were mentioned here – but I think it’s also the role, the active role of the United States in defending liberty around the world and standing by its allies, in this case the best possible ally of the United States, Israel – I think it’s made a world of difference. And I bet on this alliance. I wouldn’t sell the Unites States short; I wouldn’t sell Israel short; and I would not at all diminish the importance of this alliance. I think it’s pivotal for the future of our world and if you ask me about it, I’ll tell you more. This is what I believe.”

The Prime Minister referred to the situation in the Middle East:

“Well, I went to serve in the United Nations 100 years ago as Israel’s Ambassador, and there was a woman there. Her name was Jeane Kirkpatrick. And I had read an article that she had written called Dictatorships and Double Standards. And she said basically in this article, she said we are committed to the larger battle against Soviet totalitarianism and on occasion we decide for the larger goal to make arrangements with secular dictatorships. That’s basically what she said. Now, mind you, Saddam was horrible, horrible, a brutal killer. So was Qaddafi. There’s no question about that. I had my own dealings with each of them. But I do want to say that they were in many ways neighborhood bullies. That is, they tormented their immediate environment, but they were not wedded to a larger goal.

The militant Islamists, either Iran leading the militant Shiites with their proxies Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and Hamas, or – even though Hamas is Sunni – or the militant Sunnis led by Da’ash, by ISIS… They have a larger goal in mind. Their goal is not merely the conquest of the Middle East; it’s the conquest of the world. It’s unbelievable. People don’t believe that. They don’t believe that it’s possible to have this quest for an imamate or a caliphate in the 21st century, but that is exactly what is guiding them. And against this larger threat that could, that would present two Islamic states – one the Islamic state of Da’ash and the other the Islamic Republic of Iran – each one of them seeking to arm themselves with weapons of mass death: chemical weapons in the case of ISIS, nuclear weapons in the case of Iran. That poses a formidable threat to our world and therefore if I have to categorize the threats, I would say that these are the larger threats.

And it doesn’t mean that you have to form alliances with secular dictatorships; it means you have to categorize what is the larger threat, and that is something that I think is required from all of us. Political leadership involves always choosing between bad and worse. I seldom have had a choice between bad and good. I welcome it when it happens, but these are by far the easiest choices. It’s choosing between bad and worse that defines a good part of leadership. And I think I know how to choose that.”

On the Syrian issue the Prime Minister said:

“I have acted several years ago, and I think I was the first country to do that, to put a military hospital ten yards away from our border with the Golan, with Syria. And we’ve taken in thousands of Syrians – children, women, men, amputated, horrible conditions – given them treatment in Israeli hospitals. We never show their picture because if their photograph is seen and they are then rehabilitated and they go back to their villages or towns, they’ll be executed on the spot. But other than that, I’ve left the internal battle in Syria untouched because I’m not sure what to choose and you have to openly admit it.

But here’s what I do define in Syria: I don’t want Syria to be used as a launching ground for attacks against us. And I have said this to Vladimir Putin when I flew to Moscow to see him. I went to see him first to make sure that our planes don’t crash at each other; it’s not a good idea. But I told him, here’s what we do in Syria. We will not allow Iran to set up a second front in the Golan, and we will act forcefully and have acted forcefully to prevent that. We will not allow the use of Syrian territory from which we’d be attacked by the Syrian army or anyone else, and we have acted forcefully against that. And third, we will not allow the use of Syrian territory for the transfer of game-changing weapons into Lebanon, into Hezbollah’s hands. And we have acted forcefully on that. I made it clear that we will continue to act that way. I explained that to Putin. I said, “Whatever your goals are in Syria, these are our goals and we’ll continue to act that way.” And I think that message was received.

Now, there is talk now of an arrangement in Syria and I spoke about it today in a very good conversation I had with President Obama. And I said that any arrangement that is struck in Syria if one is achievable – I’m not sure, I’m not sure Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again. I have strong doubts. I’m not sure Syria as a state can be reconstituted. But whatever arrangements are made in Syria that do not preclude Iran from continuing its aggression against us directly or by transferring weapons to Hezbollah, that doesn’t oblige us. We have very clear policy demands in Syria. We keep them and we’ll continue to keep them. The defense of Israel is what concerns me in Syria first and foremost, and on that we’ll continue to act forcefully.”

On economic-technological matters the Prime Minister said:

“Israel is becoming I would say the preeminent or one of the two great centers of innovation in the world. And as a result our ability to make alliances is shifting. We are now in an extraordinary relationship with two small countries in Asia – India and China and Japan. Together we account for roughly two-and-a-half billion people in the world. Now, they’re all coming to this new Israel. You asked where is Israel going. In the century of conceptual products and knowledge, the ones who will prosper are those who can innovate faster. Israel is a speed chess innovator. We don’t have that large a number of innovators, but we have a very, very large number of very fast innovators. And our culture promotes that.

So I think Israel is moving into a leadership position in technology. I’ll give you a number to illustrate this because I think it’s important that I take this away from general concepts and make it concrete. In 2014, as a result of a deliberate policy that my government is leading, Israel had 10% of the global investments in cyber security. That’s a hundred times our size. In 2015, we track that number, we receive double that amount. We receive 20% of the global investment in cyber security. In cyber, we’re punching 200 times above our weight.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the 2015 AEI Irving Kristol Award. The award is given to individuals who have made exceptional intellectual and practical contributions to improve government policy, social welfare, or political understanding. The award is given at an annual event which was held this year at the National Building Museum, is America’s leading cultural institution devoted to the history and impact of the built environment. It does so by telling the stories of architecture, engineering, and design.

Among those in attendance were Supreme Court justices, Senators, members of the House of Representatives and senior managers from multi-national companies.

Previous recipients of the Irving Kristol Award include Nobel laureate Eugene Fama, Gen. David Petraeus, Bernard Lewis, US House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, Leon Kass and Martin Feldstein.

Full Text Israel Political Brief November 9, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama’s Statements at the White House

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Statements by US President Barack Obama and PM Netanyahu at the White House

Source: PMO, 11-9-15


Statements by US President Barack Obama and PM Netanyahu at the White House
Photo by Haim Zah, GPO

President Obama:

“Welcome once again Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to the Oval Office. There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.

Before I get started, I just want to say a brief word about the Jordanian attack that we discovered earlier, the fact that someone dressed in a military uniform carried out an attack at a training facility in which it appears that there may have been two or three U.S. citizens killed and a number of other individuals injured.

Obviously, a full investigation is taking place. We take this very seriously and we’ll be working closely with the Jordanians to determine exactly what happened. But at this stage, I want to just let everyone know that this is something we’re paying close attention to and at the point where the families have been notified, obviously, our deepest condolences will be going out to them.

I also want to extend my condolences to the Israeli people on the passing of former President Navon. Obviously, he’s an important figure in Israeli politics and we extend heartfelt condolences to his family.

This is going to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face. It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas. And as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities, and that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds. We have closer military and intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history.

The military assistance that we provide, we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel, but also an important part of US security infrastructure in the region, as we make sure that one of our closest allies can not only protect itself, but can also work with us in deterring terrorism and other security threats. In light of what continues to be a chaotic situation in Syria, this will give us an opportunity to discuss what’s happening there.

We’ll have an opportunity to discuss how we can blunt the activities of ISIL, Hezbollah, other organizations in the region that carry out terrorist attacks. A lot of our time will be spent on a memorandum of understanding that we can potentially negotiate. It will be expiring in a couple of years, but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward.

We’ll also have a chance to talk about how implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement is going. It’s no secret that the Prime Minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue, but we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about the importance of us blunting destabilizing activities that Iran may be taking place.

And so, we’re going to be looking to make sure that we find common ground there.

And we will also have an opportunity to discuss some of the concerns that both of us have around violence in the Palestinian territories. I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against innocent Israeli citizens.

And I want to repeat, once again, it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself. I also will discuss with the Prime Minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israeli and Palestinians, how we can get back on a path towards peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself.

And so, there’s going to be a lot of work to do with too little time. Which is why I will stop here, and just once again say, welcome.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“Mr. President. First let me express the condolences of the people of Israel for the loss of American lives. We’re with you.

We’re with each other in more ways than one, and I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong, strengthen our alliance, which is strong.

I think it’s rooted in shared values. It’s buttressed by shared interests. It’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny. We are obviously tested, today, in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East, as you described it. I think everybody can see it with the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression and terror by Iran’s proxies, and by Iran itself, and the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands, and we don’t know what will transpire.

And I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for us to work together, to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror, how we can roll it back. It’s a daunting task.

Equally, I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace. We’ll never give up our hope for peace. And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.

I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself against terror and destruction, but neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors that genuinely want to achieve peace with us.

And I look forward to discussing with you practical ways in which we can lower the tension, increase stability, and move towards peace.

And finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your commitment to further bolster Israel security, and the Memorandum of Understanding that we’re discussing. Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense burden over the years, and we’ve done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America. And I want to express my appreciation to you, the appreciation of the people of Israel to you, for your efforts in this regard during our years of common service, and what you’re engaging in right now. How to bolster Israel’s security, how to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge, so that Israel can, as you’ve often said, defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

So, for all these reasons, I want to thank you again for your hospitality, but even more so for sustaining and strengthening the tremendous friendship and alliance between Israel and the United States of America.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 16, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu to visit US President Barack Obama at the White House on November 9

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Statement by the Press Secretary on the Visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source: WH, 9-16-15

President Obama on November 9, 2015 will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House. The President looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister regional security issues, including implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to peacefully and verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and countering Tehran’s destabilizing activities. The President also looks forward to discussing Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, the situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the need for the genuine advancement of a two-state solution. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel as well as the unprecedented security cooperation, including our close consultations to further enhance Israel’s security.

Full Text Israel Political Brief September 11, 2015: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement marking anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks transcript

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PM Netanyahu’s statement marking anniversary of 9/11 terror attacks

Source: MFA, 9-11-15
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this afternoon (Friday, 11 September 2015), made the following statement:
“The Government and people of Israel stand with the United States of America in marking 14 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
As we remember those who perished, we remain committed to fighting the forces of militant Islam that have caused so much death and destruction both before and since that terrible day. Our commitment is matched only by our conviction that we will prevail.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief May 31, 2015: PM Netanyahu’s Condolences to the Biden Family on the death on Beau Biden

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PM Netanyahu’s Condolences to the Biden Family

Source: PMO, 5-31-15

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his statement at the end of his meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier:

“I would like to offer Israel’s sincere condolences to my good friend Vice President Joe Biden on the passing of his son Beau. Vice President Biden spoke many times to me about Beau over the years, we’ve known each other for many, many years. And in his all too short life, Beau Biden achieved a great deal, and gave so much. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the entire Biden family at this difficult time.”

Israel Musings April 25, 2015: Obama WH-Israel thaw continues on Yom Haatzmaut, but not towards Netanyahu

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Obama WH-Israel thaw continues on Yom Haatzmaut, but not towards Netanyahu

April 25, 2015

After Congressional Democrats warned President Barack Obama and the administration, their harsh rhetoric towards Israel and its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would cost the Democrats votes in the 2016 elections, Obama has been trying to placate and improve relations especially…

Full Text Israel Political Brief April 23, 2015: Vice President Joe Biden’s Remarks at the 67th Annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration

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Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden the 67th Annual Israeli Independence Day Celebration

Source: WH, 4-23-15 

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

7:29 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Ron, Mr. Ambassador, my name is Joe Biden, and everybody knows I love Israel.

I was thinking as Ron was saying that he doesn’t know what it’s like in Catholic families — whether we argue as much as allegedly occurs in Jewish families.  Well, I settled all that.  Two of my three children married Jews.  (Laughter.)  And you want to see what happens then.  (Laughter.)

As a matter of fact, my daughter — I — the dream of every Irish-Catholic father is for his daughter to marry a Jewish surgeon.  (Laughter.)  And she did.

But I want you to know I think the only time on record, at least in the state of Delaware, in the oldest Catholic church in the state, the second oldest — 1842 — we signed the ketubah in the Catholic rectory.  (Laughter.)  Not a joke.  (Laughter.)  Not a joke.  I think that’s a first.  We had a chuppah on the altar, handmade, magnificently, beautiful chuppah.  And we had a Catholic priest, Father Murphy, and a rabbi, and it was hard getting a rabbi, by the way.  (Laughter.)  I had to go up to Montgomery County to find one.  (Laughter.)  And the reason why — Montgomery County, Pennsylvania — and the reason he came is his mother loved me.  (Laughter.)  But — and my daughter asked me, she said, Daddy, what do you want played at the wedding?  I said, just one — maybe the concluding hymn could be “On Eagles’ Wings”.

And so the rabbi was a wonderful guy, literally presided over 75 percent of the wedding.  The vows were administered by the Catholic priest.  And as the wedding party was departing, as the bride and groom were departing down the aisle, they played the hora.  (Laughter.)  So I figured it out.  One way to end arguments is to marry.  (Laughter.)

Look, the fact of the matter is that 77 years [sic] ago, at midnight on May 14, 1948, against all odds, in the wake of searing tragedy, defiant in the face of overwhelming military numbers massed on its borders, the modern State of Israel was born.   (Applause.)

What you did next was no less than miraculous.  You were blessed with one of the greatest generations of founding fathers and mothers of any nation in the history of the world — Ben-Gurion, Meir, Begin, Sharon, Rabin, Peres.  They all fashioned Israel into a vibrant, vibrant democracy.

And in the process, you built one of the most innovative societies on Earth.  In the process, you defended your homeland and became the most powerful military in the entire region.  And all these years later, things have changed, but the danger still exists.  But the people of Israel still live in a dangerous neighborhood.  And just to be an Israeli — it still demands uncommon courage.

Much has changed, but two things have remained absolutely the same: the courage of your people and the commitment of mine.  (Applause.)

So today, we celebrate your independence and our friendship, which was born just 11 minutes after Israel’s founding.  And President Obama and I are proud to carry forward the unbroken line of American leaders –- Democrat and Republican —- who have honored America’s sacred promise to protect the homeland of the Jewish people.

It’s no secret that, like administrations before us, as the Ambassador said, we’ve had our differences.  I have been here for a long time, for eight Presidents.  I’ve witnessed disagreements between administrations.  It’s only natural for two democracies like ours.  As Ron said, we’re like family.  We have a lot to say to one another.  Sometimes we drive each other crazy.  But we love each other.  And we protect each other.   (Applause.)

And it’s hard to see with these lights, but I suspect I know many of you personally.  As many of you heard me say before, were there no Israel, America would have to invent one.  We’d have to invent one because Ron is right, you protect our interests like we protect yours.  (Applause.)

So let’s get something straight.  In this moment of some disagreement occasionally between our governments, I want to set the record straight on one thing:  No President has ever done more to support Israel’s security than President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)

Just look at the facts.  Each time a rocket has rained down from Gaza, President Obama stands up before the world and defends Israel’s right to defend itself like any other nation.

Under President Obama, with the United States Congress, America has provided $20 billion in military assistance to Israel -– and cutting edge weaponry needed to maintain the qualitative advantage against any potential opponent.

You all know the stories of Iron Dome.  What you may not know is that next year, we will deliver to Israel the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter –- our finest -– making Israel the only country in the Middle East with a fifth-generation aircraft.  No other.  (Applause.)

And we continue to discuss, as the Israeli military here and the intelligence communities will tell you in Israel as well as here — we continue to discuss what more must be done in the near term and the long term to continue to strengthen Israel so she can maintain that edge.  (Applause.)

Our commitment to protect Israel’s security in my case and many of your case is not just political or national interest, it’s personal.  It’s personal for me and it’s personal for the President.

You’ve heard me say this many of my friends out there before, but it bears repeating on this day, it began at my father’s dinner table.  My father was a righteous Christian.  We assembled to eat, to have discussions — and occasionally eat.  My father talked about how he could not understand why there was a debate among Americans or why there was a debate among American Jews about whether or not we should have recognized Israel; why there would be any debate about why we hadn’t done more; why we hadn’t — that’s where I first learned about not bombing the railroad tracks.  I learned from my father about the concentration camps.  And the first thing I did with my children when each of them turned 15, I took them to Europe, flew them directly to Dachau, and made them spend a day there with me.  And I’ve done the same with my grandchildren.  My grandchild Finnegan as recently as just a month ago where we met with a 94-year-old survivor of Auschwitz, as well as Dachau.  He showed us the camp because he was proud — proud — to welcome the Vice President and his granddaughter.

All you have to do to understand is stand on the Golan and look down.  I remember the first time I did that as a young senator.  All you have to do is wander throughout Israel.  All you have to do is take that helicopter ride the entire length of the fence.  All you have to do is just look at the map.  All you had to is set foot at Yad Vashem -— and you understand.

I’ve had the great privilege of knowing every Israeli Prime Minister since Golda Meir and more than just casually.  And I’ve worked with many of you in this room for up to 40 years.  You know me.  You raised me.  You educated me.  And I know you.

So believe me when I tell you:  It’s not only personal to me, it’s personal to President Obama, as well.  The President was raised with memories of his great-uncle, who marched with Patton’s Army to liberate Jewish prisoners from the horrors of Buchenwald.  As a young man, he grew up learning about Israel from the stories of Leon Uris’ in “Exodus”; the Six-Day War; and Moshe Dayan, with his eye patch and his courage.  I remember sitting in front of Golda Meir’s desk as she flipped those maps up and down, chain-smoking, talking about the losses of the Six-Day War, sitting next to her military attaché at the time, a guy named Rabin.

But Barack, as a young senator — being 19 years younger than I am, he heard about it.  He read about it.  As senator, Barack Obama went to a small town in southern Israel to see with his own eyes the lives of the families who live under threat of rockets -– families that he has helped protect as Commander-in-Chief, under Iron Dome.

As President, he stood in Jerusalem, and declared to the whole world, “Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.  So long as the United States of America is there, Israel will never be alone.”  (Applause.)  He means it.  He means it.  You know I mean it.  I’m telling you he means it.

That’s my President.  He understands the need for Israel to have the right and the capacity and the capability to defend itself.  At the same time, he says, “we have Israel’s back” — and you can count on it.

The same commitment to the survival and security of Israel is fundamental to our strategy for the entire Middle East.  And then we get into the controversial piece.  Iran.  Remember this is the President who made it for the first time in American history a declared policy of the United States to use all the instruments of our power to prevent -— not contain, prevent –- Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.  He stated that all options are on the table -— then he made sure of what did not exist before.  He made sure we spent the time and money and the research to develop the capacity required to act against their capacity to develop a weapon if ever needed.

Over the skepticism of many, we worked with the U.S. Congress, our European allies, and Russia, China, to put in place the toughest sanctions regime in modern history.

We also knew the cost of not negotiating.  Midway through the last administration, the U.S. government refused to directly engage.  It insisted at the same time that Iran dismantle its entire program.

The result?  By the time President Bush left office, Iran had dramatically advanced its movement toward ability to acquire a nuclear weapon.  So we’ve taken a different approach, combining unprecedented pressure with direct diplomacy to find an enduring solution.

Negotiations began.  And we’ve come a long way.  And you’ve all seen the parameters that were put forward.  It’s a framework, only a framework — not a final deal.  A great deal of work lies ahead to see if Iran will actually enshrine the commitments that went into that framework as part of a final deal.

If they do, each of Iran’s paths to a bomb would be meaningfully and verifiably blocked.  Iran would cut its enrichment capacity by two-thirds; shrink its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98 percent.  Breakout time to create a weapon’s worth of bomb-grade material will go from two to three months, which it is today, to over a year.

The deal would ensure at least a one-year breakout cushion for a decade.  And for years after that, the breakout time would continue to be longer than it exists today.

We’ll prevent the Arak reactor from ever being a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.  We will put in place the toughest transparency and verification requirements in history -— providing the best possible check against a secret path to the bomb.

This isn’t a grand bargain between the United States and Iran.  It’s a nuclear bargain between Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany, the EU, America and Iran.  It’s based on hard-hitting, hard-headed, uncompromising assessments of what is required to protect ourselves, Israel, the region, and the world.

And if the final deal on the table that doesn’t meet the President’s requirements, we simply will not sign it.

A final deal must effectively cut off Iran’s pathways to the bomb.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

A final deal must ensure a breakout timeline at least for one year for a decade.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

A final deal must include phased sanctions relief, calibrated against Iran taking meaningful steps to constrain their program.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

A final deal must provide a verifiable assurance to the international community demands to ensure Iran’s program is exclusively peaceful going forward.  If it doesn’t, no deal.

And if Iran cheats at any time and goes for a nuclear weapon –- every option we have to respond today remains on the table.  And your military will tell you, and more.

I’ve been involved in arms control negotiations since I was a kid in the Senate at 30 years of age — every major SALT agreement, START agreement, and toward the end, I was deeply involved negotiating when Brezhnev was still around, leading a delegation of senators.  But just like arms control talks with the Soviet Union —- another regime we fundamentally disagreed with, another regime whose rhetoric was outrageous and unacceptable, another regime whose proxies were forcefully making trouble, and we forcefully countered around the world –- we negotiated to reduce the nuclear threat to prevent a nuclear war.  And it kept us safer.  That’s what we’re attempting to do today.

We also continue to agree with Israeli leaders going back decades –- from Rabin to Sharon, whose funeral I had the great honor of eulogizing –- that a two-state solution is essential to Israel’s long-term survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.   Consistent with our commitment to Israel’s security and survival, the United States stands ready to help Israel decide — if they decide — how to get there and if they want our help in getting there.

I’ll always remember what my friend and mentor, and Holocaust survivor who worked for me as my national security advisor before he became Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Lantos once said.  He said, “the veneer of civilization is paper thin.  We are its guardians and can never rest.”

That’s why we must never retreat from fighting every scourge and source of anti-Semitism as we find it.  You see, in too many places where legitimate criticism crosses over into bigotry and anti-Semitism; where an explicitly anti-Semitic attack takes place at a kosher grocery store; assaults on religious Jews in the streets of major European capitals.  Some of you may remember how harshly I was criticized as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee over 15 years ago when I held hearings on anti-Semitism in Europe.  Emerson said, society is like a wave, the wave moves on, but the particles remain the same.  Wherever, in whatever country, whatever circumstance it rears its head, we have to stop it.

Enough is enough.   We have to fight it everywhere we find it.

I’ll conclude — and my friends kid me and I imagine Ron may, as well — telling you the story about my meeting with Golda Meir.  The reason I do it had a profound impact on me, one of the most consequential meetings I’ve ever had in my life.  I think I’ve met every major world leader in the last 36 or 37 years in the world, in a literal sense.

But I remember meeting for close to an hour with her.  She went through what happened in the Six-Day War, and the price that was paid.  And I just had come from Egypt.  They let me go to Egypt and go to the Suez Canal.  And I was saying to she and Rabin that I thought that they were getting ready to attack again.  And everyone including my military and Israeli military thought I was crazy.

I remember driving from Cairo all the way to out to the Suez.  And you could see these great plumes of dust and sand.  But none it seemed isolated.  It turns out it was maneuvers taking place in the desert.  And I was really worried.  And we went through, and she painted a bleak, bleak picture — scared the hell out of me, quite frankly, about the odds.

And all of a sudden she looked at and she said, would you like a photograph?  And I said, yes, ma’am.  And those double-blind doors opened up into that hallway — not hallway.  It looks like — it’s a foyer.  And we walked out, and the press was standing there.  We didn’t say anything.  We just stood side by side.  And she must have thought I looked worried.  And it’s an absolutely true story.  She didn’t look at me, she spoke to me.  She said, Senator, you look so worried.  I said, well, my God, Madam Prime Minister, and I turned to look at her.  I said, the picture you paint.  She said, oh, don’t worry.  We have — I thought she only said this to me.  She said, we have a secret weapon in our conflict with the Arabs.  You see, we have no place else to do.

I was criticized in the national press a couple weeks ago when I said that, in fact, every Jew in the world needs there to be an Israel.  And it was characterized by some of the conservative press as saying that I was implying Jews weren’t safe in America.  They don’t get it.  They don’t get it.  Israel, Israel is absolutely essential — absolutely essential — security of Jews around the world.  And that’s why you have never farmed out your security.  You’ve accepted all the help we could give.  The most admirable thing about you is you’ve never asked us to fight for you.  But I promise you, if you were attacked and overwhelmed, we would fight for you, in my view.  (Applause.)

The truth of the matter is we need you.  The world needs you.  Imagine what it would say about humanity and the future of the 21st century if Israel were not sustained, vibrant and free.

We’ll never stop working to ensure that Jews from around the world always have somewhere to go.  We’ll never stop working to make sure Israel has a qualitative edge.  And whomever the next President is — Republican or Democrat — it will be the same because the American people, the American people are committed.  The America people understand.

So I say happy birthday, Israel.  Happy Independence Day.  May God bless you and may God bless and protect the United States of America.  Thank you all so very much.  (Applause.)

END
7:52 P.M. EDT

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