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

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

Source: Algemeiner, 3-4-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

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

Source: Haaretz, 3-4-14

Netanyau at AIPAC, March 4, 2014.

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

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

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

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Conference

Source: State.gov, 3-3-14

Remarks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Senator McCain Remarks at AIPAC Conference

Source: C-SPAN, 3-3-14

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

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

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Senator McCain Remarks at AIPAC Conference

Source: C-SPAN, 3-3-14

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

Jewish Political Brief March 2, 2014: Crisis over Crimea steals thunder from AIPAC policy conference

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Crisis over Crimea steals thunder from AIPAC conference

Source: Haaretz, 3-2-14

But the crisis in the capital over Russia’s move into Crimea, which threatens to reignite the Cold War, has infused the America Israel Public Affairs Committee confab with a strong sense of anticlimax….READ MORE

Jewish Political Brief March 2, 2014: AIPAC conference opens with appeal for bipartisanship

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JEWISH POLITICAL BRIEF: JEWISH NEWS

AIPAC conference opens with appeal for bipartisanship

Source: JTA, 3-2-14

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC opened its annual conference with an appeal for bipartisanship. “Bipartisanship is essential,” Michael Kassen, the board chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said Sunday….READ MORE

Jewish Political Brief March 2, 2014: AIPAC’s Largest-Ever Policy Conference Kicks Off in Washington

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AIPAC’s Largest-Ever Policy Conference Kicks Off in Washington

AIPAC’s largest-ever policy conference kicked off on Sunday morning in Washington, D.C., with many of the 14,000 registered attendees at its opening session. The convention literature focuses on bi-partisanship, humanitarianism and youth….READ MORE

Israel Political Brief February 10, 2014: AIPAC Policy Conference 2014 Program, Schedule, Speakers & Facts – March 2-4

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AIPAC Policy Conference 2014

PC 2014 Schedule

Source: AIPAC

Saturday, March 1, 2014

3:00 PM

Registration and AIPAC Village Open

Sunday, March 2, 2014

9:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Opening General Session

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Club and Constituency Lunches

Leadership Luncheon (Senate Club, President’s Cabinet, Chairman’s Council, Minyan)
Synagogue Delegation Lunch

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Breakout Session 1

2:15 PM – 4:30 PM

Breakout Session 2

5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Afternoon General Session

7:30 PM – 10:00 PM

Additional Evening Programming

Off-Site Dinner for President’s Cabinet, Chairman’s Council, Minyan members
Campus Awards Program: “Sunday Night Live”
Special Events at Washington Convention Center

Monday, March 3, 2014

9:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Monday Morning General Session

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

Club and Constituency Lunches

Capitol Club Lunch
Washington Club Lunch
Rabbi/Cantor Lunch

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Breakout Session 3

2:15 PM – 4:15 PM

Breakout Session 4

5:00 PM – 6:45 PM

Monday Afternoon General Session

7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Additional Evening Programming

Leadership Reception (Senate Club, President’s Cabinet, Chairman’s Council, Minyan)

8:30 PM – 10:00 PM

Live Concert Featuring David Broza

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

8:30 AM – 10:30 AM

Tuesday Morning General Session

11:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Lobbying Appointments

Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: Congressional Impact AIPAC Activists to Press for Tough Iran Sanctions, Aid to Israel

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Congressional Impact AIPAC Activists to Press for Tough Iran Sanctions, Aid to Israel

Source: AIPAC, 3-6-12

In a resounding show of support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, thousands of AIPAC activists from all 50 states will ascend Capitol Hill today to conduct more than 500 lobbying meetings with members of Congress and their staff.

At the top of the agenda will be stopping Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability. AIPAC activists will encourage their representatives to support resolutions in the House and Senate (H. Res. 568 and S. Res. 380) affirming that it is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability and opposing any reliance on a policy seeking to contain a nuclear-capable Iran.

The Senate resolution is being led by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Robert Casey (D-PA). The House resolution was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA).

Similarly, delegates will urge senators to support the Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Human Rights Act of 2012 (S. 2101), which would escalate the level of sanctions against the regime’s human rights violators and sharply tighten the enforcement of existing sanctions law. The measure was introduced by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL).

AIPAC activists will also urge lawmakers to support the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which House and Senate members plan to introduce in the coming days. The legislation is expected to recommend several ways to strengthen U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation in such fields as missile defense, homeland security, energy, intelligence and cyber-security.

The House version of the bill is being led by Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), while the Senate legislation is being spearheaded by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA).

Finally, the AIPAC citizen-lobbyists will be asking their representatives to support $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel as part of the fiscal year 2013 budget. The aid request reflects the fifth year of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel, signed in 2007 and beginning in 2009, which called for a gradual increase in U.S. security assistance to the Jewish state in order to meet growing regional threats.

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

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Republican White House hopefuls slam Obama on Iran

Source: AFP, 3-6-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Haaretz, 3-6-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: WSJ, 3-6-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Rick Santorum, 3-6-12

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

In his speech, Santorum said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Political Brief March 5, 2012: House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s Speech / Remarks at AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference — Transcript

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Leader Cantor’s Speech To AIPAC

Source: Majority Leader, 3-5-12

Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. The embargoed text of his speech, as prepared for delivery, appears below:

Good afternoon. It’s always such an honor to speak before you at AIPAC. You have gathered here because you have faith, because you have commitment, and because you have love for America and her great friend, Israel.

America and Israel are two lights among all nations. They are envied by many, but known for their dedication to human freedom, opportunity and growth. In thinking about the differences in worldviews that exist today, I come to a conclusion.

It is the province of idealists to dream. It is the province of realists to wake up. Let me emphasize, we need idealists. Idealism animated America’s Founding Fathers and Israel’s Founding Fathers. But we also need idealists who transition into the realists personified by the Founding Fathers of both America and Israel.

In the Middle East, now is the time to be realists – to wake up, before all dreams turn into an unbearable nightmare. We must stop Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. To minimize the Iranian threat is to fall into the same trap that led to the Holocaust – a lack of imagination about how far evil can go.

A visit to Israel’s Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem, provides all of us a reality check. The first time I went there, I was struck by the Hall of Names. It is a room that contains about 2.5 million pages of personal testimonies about the identities and life stories of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their accomplices. How tragic that we Jews, known as the People of the Book, should have to assemble a book of the slaughter of our innocents.

On January 3 of this year, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke darkly of what he called the Zionist regime – Israel – and he referred to quote, “the endpoint of its existence.” To that, today we reply, Mr. Ahmadinejad, Israel’s existence will endure, long after you are gone.

To ensure that, we have to transition from confusion to clarity in the Middle East. A major source of confusion is: Where is the leadership? Who is leading from the front with a finger pointing in the right direction rather than a finger pointing in the wind? America needs to be a compass, not a weathervane, in the Middle East.

Even many of Israel’s adversaries are clamoring for clarity. They fear Iran’s efforts to foment instability and extremism in the region more than they fear Israel, as I found out on my recent visit to countries in the Gulf. They want a balance of power in the Middle East, not an unbalanced power like Iran.

America’s role is not to put its hand on the scale and balance it against Israel. America’s role is to put its fist on the scale to weigh down the terrorism, fanaticism and anti-Semitism of Iran and its proxies.

So, let us not send mixed messages when it comes to Israel. That only serves to confuse the world, including Israel’s enemies. As elusive as peace has been in the Middle East, the only way it can be approached is through strength.

Time and again, the countries of the Middle East, and especially the terrorists who reside there, have sent the clear message that all they respect, all they respond to is strength. Strength is the only language that our enemies, and Israel’s enemies, understand. No translation is required.

To deny our enemies their deadly options, we must keep all our options on the table: diplomatic and military. The time for illusions is over. The reality is that Iran is moving closer and closer to attaining a nuclear weapons capability. Neither Israel nor America can afford to be nuclear re-actors. Leadership requires action, not re-action.

But to be effective, leadership requires three assets: Superior intelligence. Superior capability. And Superior will.

For years, Iran has been scoffing at the United States and Israel, signaling that it believes it has nothing to lose. America and Israel must now demonstrate that we do have the intelligence, capability and will – both military and moral – to persuade Iran that we will meet its folly with force.

I, for one, do not apologize when I say that Israel and America, while not perfect, have the two most morally responsible militaries in the world. Might exercised with righteousness is might that makes right. The soldiers of Israel and America are trained to be moral and responsible, and are held to the highest ethical standards. Our militaries operate at great expense and with great risk to conduct operations that place a premium on avoiding collateral damage. By contrast, many of our adversaries intentionally target innocent women and children.

When it comes to Iran, Al Qaeda, the Taliban or any of our other enemies, it is not true that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

It is not liberty or freedom that our enemies are fighting for. Our enemies have made it plain that they oppose the freedoms that Israel and America uphold.

These are freedoms that people worldwide cry out for and often die for. We have seen those people die in the streets of Tehran, Cairo, Tripoli, Aleppo and many other places. So, when world bodies such as the United Nations single out Israel as an oppressor, we must ask: have you no eyes, have you no hearts, have you no judgment – and who are you to judge?

Anti-Israel propagandists would have you believe that Israelis have stolen the freedom from Palestinian people. But what kind of freedom is it when Palestinian terrorists like Hamas in Gaza use their own women, children, elderly and other innocents as human shields? They reprehensively calculate that a maximum of civilian casualties will generate a maximum of worldwide condemnation of Israel.

What kind of democracy have the Palestinians built for themselves? An intra-Palestinian civil war in Gaza that gave way to a Hamas-controlled terrorist rump-state? Or a corrupt Fatah Party in the West Bank that has resisted political reforms and undermined Prime Minister Fayyad’s efforts to build democratic institutions and promote economic growth?

Yes, Israel fights but in self-defense. And it is in self-defense that Israel lives. But you will rarely read of the toll that takes on Israel’s own innocents.

In 2005, Israel unilaterally pulled out of the Gaza Strip in a concession to try to further peace, leaving the border areas under the control of Egypt and the Palestinians. Since then, the Gaza Strip has been turned into a base for Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorists to lob rocket attacks on Israel. Many of these groups are supported by Iran.

Sderot, a western city near the Gaza Strip, has been the target of those attacks for years. When I last visited there, I was told a story about life for one Israeli mother and her young children. In just six months, more than 160 rockets were fired at their city. When a rocket is detected, a siren goes off.

It gives residents about 15 seconds to rush for shelter in the safe room of a house, in a car – anywhere they can flee to try to protect themselves. This constant barrage has traumatized this woman’s children. They are afraid to leave her side. They have regressed in their growth habits like bathroom training. Their anxieties are so intense that if they hear a car door slam they jump with fright – sometimes under a table.

Sadly, this reminds me of Golda Meier’s remark that “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

We must stop following mirages in the Middle East and start following through on this reality: our mission in the Middle East is to drive our stake in the sand with our values – to proclaim our values rather than apologize for them. And no country in the Middle East stands aligned with America’s values more than Israel.

Start with the American Bill of Rights and the value of freedom of speech. In Israel, there is so much freedom of speech, it makes your head spin. Sadly, as we’ve seen elsewhere in the Middle East, attempting freedom of speech can make you lose your head.

Consider the American value of freedom of religion. In Israel, you are not only free to practice any religion you wish, you can choose to practice no religion at all. Where else in the Middle East is this the case?

Then there is the American value of freedom of the press. In Israel, there is the old joke of two Jews, three opinions – and you can get all those opinions in the newspapers, on TV, on the Internet, on the radio – even in the graffiti on the walls. Elsewhere in the Middle East, sometimes when you publish, you perish.

Let’s look at the American value of freedom of assembly to come together in meetings, discuss problems and plan actions, in a peaceful way and also to petition your government. Let’s be honest, Israel is not only known for its kibbutzniks; it’s especially known for its kibitzers. To meet, talk, plan, protest and that includes criticizing your government. That’s in Israelis’ DNA. But in countries that surround Israel, large and small gatherings of citizens voicing their concerns too often produce bloodshed, brutality and jail sentences.

Finally, in America and Israel, women’s rights are deeply enshrined in our laws and our cultures and there are many protections for minorities – whether they be religious, racial or of sexual orientation. But as you travel through other parts of the Middle East, women and minorities are suppressed and repressed, denied rights and their dignity.

Because Israel shares American values, Americans should value Israel all the more. America’s job should not be to micromanage Israel. It should be to macromanage the proliferation of our values in the Middle East, values that Israel cherishes just as we do.

It is often said that if you don’t stand up for something, you will put up with anything. This is another thing I heard in country after country in our trip to the gulf. Confusion about where America stands has raised questions about what some of our leaders in Washington are willing to put up with. That’s not just about Iran, it’s about Syria, it’s about Iraq, it’s about Egypt and it’s about Libya.

In order to see the bigger picture in the Middle East, some in Washington must stop standing small – stooping to belittle Israel by taking for granted its sacrifices, its security and its solidarity with America. We must stand tall by our allies, and no ally stands taller for us than Israel. We must stand by our commitments, and no commitment is greater than Israel’s is to us. Let us do unto Israel as Israel keeps doing unto us. Loyalty deserves loyalty. Trust merits trust in return.

That is why, as Whip Hoyer mentioned, we will be introducing the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act. This bipartisan bill will reaffirm our enduring commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship and expresses Congress’ support for a number of steps to make Israel and America more secure.

The reality is that Israel has a problematic situation, but Israel is not the real problem in the Middle East. The problem is that you cannot negotiate with those who deny your very existence. When nations or terrorists openly proclaim their unshakable determination to destroy you, to wipe you off the map, to visit a Holocaust upon you, whether you are America or Israel, you do not jabber about even-handedness and moral equivalency. You come down firmly and do what is right, real and required.

In America and in Israel, there is much disagreement about policy. And plenty of politicians argue about them day in and day out. But in both countries, most of the politicians have shown themselves capable of uniting around a single cause. That cause is that Israel deserves not just to survive, but also to thrive.

Many of us have been to pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. There, people from around the world stuff messages written on paper in between the stones of the ancient wall. The message I would like to place in that wall, signed jointly by the leaders of America and Israel, is a single phrase in Hebrew: L’chaim – to life.

Let us all come together around that message: long live America, Israel, and righteous people everywhere, in the Middle East and around the world.

Thank you.

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 5, 2012: House Steny Hoyer’s Speech / Remarks at AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s Policy Conference — Transcript

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Hoyer Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference

Source: Democratic Whip, 3-5-12

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Yesterday I returned, along with a number of my colleagues, from an annual pilgrimage to Selma, Alabama, site of the Civil Rights marches in 1965.  It was led by Representative John Lewis – who, as a young activist, was beaten nearly to death on the original march.

“Two weeks after that ‘Bloody Sunday,’ citizens of every race and creed joined together to complete the march that had been halted so violently, and they sang these words as they walked forward into history:  ‘Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us; sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.’

“Among the marchers in Selma was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who locked arms with Martin Luther King at the front of the group.  He later said that at Selma his feet were praying.

“Rabbi Heschel knew the power of a dream born of faith and hope.  He understood its endurance, its energy, how it could smolder without end until a single breath brought revival and rekindling.  As energetically as he campaigned for the dream of civil rights in America, Rabbi Heschel eloquently supported the rebirth of the State of Israel out of the dream of Jewish history.  He wrote that Israel emerged from ‘a stream of dreaming, the sacred river flowing in the Jewish souls of all ages.’

“Israel is truly the product of a dream fulfilled.  I have been personally enriched each of the twelve times I have visited Israel.  The most recent was last summer, when I brought twenty-six Members of Congress with me.  Now that I’ve been there twelve times, I guess you could say the next visit will be my ‘bar mitzvah’ trip.

“To land in Israel is to confront the reality of a harsh land made beautiful and productive by the love and labor and courage of an extraordinary people.  A people besieged, tormented, and with millions murdered through millennia.  But, a people who, through faith and conviction and an incredible will to honor their history, have brought forth a country, like ours, conceived in liberty and dedicated to peace and freedom; democracy and free markets; freedom of worship for those of all faiths; and the determination to survive and succeed in the face of daunting odds and opposition.  A people who, upon setting foot in Israel, break into joyful and hope-filled song:  ‘He-vey-nu Shalom Aleichem – We have brought peace unto you!’

“We are living in an age of uncertainty.  The peace process has slowed to a near-halt, and Iran-sponsored Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip.  Palestinian textbooks continue to preach the hatred of Jews and the eventual destruction of Israel.  At the same time, the threat of terrorism looms around the world and just on the other side of Israel’s security fence.  Across the Arab world, popular discontent has sparked a wave of protests and uprisings that give promise of empowerment of the people but threaten, as well, such stability as has existed.   It remains to be seen whether this will portend democratic peace or unleash ethnic and religious hatred.

“Though much is uncertain in the region, one thing in the Middle East is always certain:  the bond that links the United States and Israel.  Our relationship, based on our shared values and shared interests, is unshakeable.

“Let me repeat:  Our relationship is unshakable.  It is enduring.  And no one should misconstrue difference of opinion or emphasis as in any way weakening a bond forged by principles, values, history, and common interests.

“Yesterday, you heard this same message from President Obama when he said:  ‘We are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share — in security for our communities, prosperity for our people, the new frontiers of science that can light the world. …That is why America’s commitment to Israel has endured under Democratic and Republican Presidents, and congressional leaders of both parties.’

“This is a president, as were his predecessors, committed to Israel’s security – who has proven through his actions that he is willing to do what it takes to stand up for Israel around the world.  A president who has continually reaffirmed a position so many of my colleagues and I share:  that Israel has a sovereign right to defend itself against threats to the security of its people.

“Today, the greatest threat to Israel’s security – and to stability in the region – is Iran.

“Again and again, Iran’s leaders preach the destruction of Israel and deride the values Israel and America share.  Its President, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, infamously called for Israel to be ‘wiped off the map’ and again this summer called the Holocaust ‘one of the biggest lies.’ In February, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promised Iranian aid to any group opposing Israel, which he labeled ‘a cancerous tumor that should be cut [out].’

“Iran and its Revolutionary Guard continue to sponsor and arm Hezbollah and Hamas, putting Israeli civilians under the constant threat that rockets will again be launched against them.  Even this month, rockets still rain down on Israel’s southern communities.  So those who may doubt the imminence of the threat to Israel, let them go to Sderot.

“Iran’s refusal to accept international inspectors and its leaders’ violent rhetoric against Israel make it absolutely clear: the development of a nuclear capability represents a red line we cannot permit Iran to cross.

“President Obama made this clear yesterday.  He said– and I quote: ‘No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.  And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weights on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and all of Israel’s leaders.’

“A nuclear Iran would be not only a grave danger to Israel but also to the United States and our allies in Europe.  It would spark a nuclear arms race in the Persian Gulf and threaten the global oil supply.  It also would carry the risk of Iranian nuclear weapons technology potentially ending up in hands of terrorist groups intending to use them against American targets.  For these reasons, a nuclear Iran is threat to America’s national security.

“Let me be absolutely clear:  a nuclear Iran is a threat to the United States, and we must do all that it takes to eliminate that threat.

“Under this Administration, Iran is facing the toughest sanctions yet from both the United States and our European allies.  In November, after an IAEA report revealed that Iranian researchers were exploring nuclear weaponization, President Obama took swift action through an executive order to impose new sanctions on foreign companies that do business with Iran.  Furthermore, the Treasury Department designated Iran’s financial system a threat to foreign banks and other financial institutions.

“In December, I was a cosponsor, along with Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader, of the Iranian Threat Reduction Act, which tightens sanctions on Iran’s energy and financial sectors, including the Central Bank of Iran, which has financed the activities of terrorist groups and has been linked to its nuclear program.  That legislation passed the House with over 400 votes, and the language on Iran’s central bank was included in the Defense Authorization bill signed into law.

“Last month, the President issued another executive order that imposes further sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran and freezes assets in the United States.  This followed a successful effort by the Obama Administration to secure additional sanctions from our allies in Canada and the European Union.

“Iran’s leaders are feeling the pressure.  We must continue applying that pressure – and increasing it – while refusing to deny ourselves any recourse to preventing a nuclear Iran.

“The President and Congress are in firm agreement when it comes to this point, which President Obama made here yesterday when he said:  ‘The effective implementation of our policy is not enough – we must accomplish our objective.  …Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.’

“And, the same when he said yesterday:  ‘I will take no options off the table. …I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.’

“Let me make this same point today:  The United States must not allow a nuclear-armed Iran.  Our policy is not containment but prevention.

“It is critically important that the United States and Israel work closely together to meet this threat, and that’s why I’m introducing this week, along with Republican Leader Eric Cantor, the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, which we expect will pass with overwhelming bipartisan support.  It will enshrine in law the deeper military and security cooperation this Administration has forged with Israel and made a high priority.  It is a reminder of the bipartisan support for Israel that has long brought Americans together across party lines.

“Military cooperation between the United States and Israel has never been closer.  Together, we are developing responses to common threats, exchanging vital intelligence, and sharing in the production of new technologies.  As I have said so often, Israel’s survival and success is and must be a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

“Israel inspires us as Americans.  We too are a nation built on a dream and know how powerful dreams can be.  As Israel has proven, even the passing of centuries and dark periods of persecution could not extinguish that ancient dream of a Jewish state reborn and living in peace.

“When they excavated the fortress of Masada, where Jewish fighters made their final stand against Rome, archaeologists discovered clay pots containing ancient seeds from the time of Masada’s fall.  Those seeds came from a date plant that had since become extinct.  Israeli scientists regenerated one of those seeds and planted it.  It grew.  It thrived.  Once thought lost forever, that 2,000-year-old date palm now lives again.

“The dream of Masada’s heroes lived on through the ages and has now borne fruit.  So too, we pray, shall the dream of peace for Israel and a secure future for its people.

“Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel exulted in this same power to endure through the ages when he described Israel, as I said earlier, as born from ‘a stream of dreaming,’ a ‘sacred river flowing in the Jewish souls of all ages.’

“America will continue to stand side-by-side with the nation born from that dream of the ages – the fulfillment of which can be heard in that song of arrival:  ‘He-vey-nu Shalom Aleichem – We have brought peace unto you.’

“Those words recall another of Rabbi Heschel’s joyous observations:  ‘A land that was dead for nearly two thousand years,’ he wrote, ‘is now a land that sings.’  Our joint mission must be to keep that song alive.  Our values demand it; our security demands it; and history demands it as well.”

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

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LIEBERMAN REMARKS TO AIPAC POLICY CONFERENCE

Source: Lieberman Senate, 3-5-12

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

Remarks to AIPAC Policy Conference

March 5, 2012

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

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

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

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

The fall of the Soviet Union…

The rise of the Internet…

The 9/11 attacks…

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

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

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

And now the Arab world’s historic democratic uprisings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is not.

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

We cannot.

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

It is not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israel Political Brief March 4, 2012: President Barack Obama’s AIPAC Speech Diplomacy still the way to stop Iran nukes, but military option on table

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

Obama: Diplomacy still the way to stop Iran nukes, but military option on table

Source: JTA, 3-4-12

President Obama said it was still possible to resolve Iran’s suspected bid for a nuclear weapon through diplomacy, but added that a military option was still on the table and that containment was not an option.

“I firmly believe that an opportunity remains for diplomacy, backed by pressure, to succeed,” Obama told the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference on Sunday in Washington.

“The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program,” he said. “Now the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists.”

The comments did not earn applause; there have been reports that Israel and AIPAC are pressing Obama to make the military option more explicit.

Obama did appear to ratchet up the military threat later in the speech, earning a standing ovation after saying that his policy is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs,” the U.S. leader said. “I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power; a political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.

“Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 4, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference on Iran Transcript

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

President Obama Speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference

Source: WH, 3-4-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference
President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
This morning, President Obama addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., where he reaffirmed the strength of our Nation’s special bond with Israel. Tomorrow, President Obama will hold a bi-lateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

During his remarks today, the President discussed the actions his Administration has taken to support Israel:

But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture – at every fork in the road – we have been there for Israel. Every single time.

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is, my Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every year. We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology – the type of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: we will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge – because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

The President also discussed the importance of securing peace between Israelis and Palestinians – a goal shared by the Israeli government:

Of course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but my Administration’s ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. So let me say this: I make no apologies for pursuing peace. Israel’s own leaders understand the necessity of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, and President Peres – each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state.

I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interest. The reality that Israel faces – from shifting demographics, to emerging technologies, to an extremely difficult international environment – demands a resolution of this issue. And I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values – because of our shared belief in self-determination; and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected.

President Obama also discussed the United States and Israel’s mutual interest in ensuring that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. As the President said: “Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States. Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we have done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

President of Israel Shimon Peres acknowledges recognition from President Barack Obama
President of Israel Shimon Peres acknowledges recognition from President Barack Obama during President Obama’s remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at AIPAC Policy Conference

Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

11:10 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Well, good morning, everyone.

Rosy, thank you for your kind words. I have never seen Rosy on the basketball court. I’ll bet it would be a treat. (Laughter.) Rosy, you’ve been a dear friend of mine for a long time and a tireless advocate for the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States. And as you complete your term as President, I salute your leadership and your commitment. (Applause.)

I want to thank the board of directors. As always, I’m glad to see my long-time friends in the Chicago delegation. (Applause.) I also want to thank the members of Congress who are with us here today, and who will be speaking to you over the next few days. You’ve worked hard to maintain the partnership between the United States and Israel. And I especially want to thank my close friend, and leader of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Applause.)

I’m glad that my outstanding young Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is in the house. (Applause.) I understand that Dan is perfecting his Hebrew on his new assignment, and I appreciate his constant outreach to the Israeli people. And I’m also pleased that we’re joined by so many Israeli officials, including Ambassador Michael Oren. (Applause.) And tomorrow, I’m very much looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation back to the White House. (Applause.)

Every time I come to AIPAC, I’m especially impressed to see so many young people here. (Applause.) You don’t yet get the front seats — I understand. (Laughter.) You have to earn that. But students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging deeply in our democratic debate. You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel. And you have the opportunity — and the responsibility — to make your own mark on the world. And for inspiration, you can look to the man who preceded me on this stage, who’s being honored at this conference — my friend, President Shimon Peres. (Applause.)

Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first world war. But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people. (Applause.) And when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea — toward home.

In his life, he has fought for Israel’s independence, and he has fought for peace and security. As a member of the Haganah and a member of the Knesset, as a Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, as a Prime Minister and as President — Shimon helped build the nation that thrives today: the Jewish state of Israel. (Applause.) But beyond these extraordinary achievements, he has also been a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might — not the other way around. (Applause.)

Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, “slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom.” And he has lived those values. (Applause.) He has taught us to ask more of ourselves, and to empathize more with our fellow human beings. I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example. And I’m proud to announce that later this spring, I will invite Shimon Peres to the White House to present him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Applause.)

In many ways, this award is a symbol of the broader ties that bind our nations. The United States and Israel share interests, but we also share those human values that Shimon spoke about: A commitment to human dignity. A belief that freedom is a right that is given to all of God’s children. An experience that shows us that democracy is the one and only form of government that can truly respond to the aspirations of citizens.

America’s Founding Fathers understood this truth, just as Israel’s founding generation did. President Truman put it well, describing his decision to formally recognize Israel only minutes after it declared independence. He said, “I had faith in Israel before it was established. I believe it has a glorious future before it — as not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”

For over six decades, the American people have kept that faith. Yes, we are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share — in security for our communities, prosperity for our people, the new frontiers of science that can light the world. But ultimately it is our common ideals that provide the true foundation for our relationship. That is why America’s commitment to Israel has endured under Democratic and Republican Presidents, and congressional leaders of both parties. (Applause.) In the United States, our support for Israel is bipartisan, and that is how it should stay. (Applause.)

AIPAC’s work continually nurtures this bond. And because of AIPAC’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission, you can expect that over the next several days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship. But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture — at every fork in the road — we have been there for Israel. Every single time. (Applause.)

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that, “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is, my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. (Applause.) Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year. (Applause.) We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology — the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge — because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. (Applause.)

This isn’t just about numbers on a balance sheet. As a senator, I spoke to Israeli troops on the Lebanese border. I visited with families who’ve known the terror of rocket fire in Sderot. And that’s why, as President, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes and hospitals and schools in that town and in others. (Applause.) Now our assistance is expanding Israel’s defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles. Because no family, no citizen, should live in fear.

And just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we’ve been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. (Applause.) When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. (Applause.) When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism. (Applause.)

When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them. (Applause.) When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. (Applause.) And whenever an effort is made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. (Applause.) So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back. (Applause.)

Which is why, if during this political season — (laughter) — you hear some questions regarding my administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America’s national security is too important. Israel’s security is too important. (Applause.)

Of course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but rather my administration’s ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. So let me say this: I make no apologies for pursuing peace. Israel’s own leaders understand the necessity of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres — each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state. I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interest. (Applause.)

The reality that Israel faces — from shifting demographics, to emerging technologies, to an extremely difficult international environment — demands a resolution of this issue. And I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values — because of our shared belief in self-determination, and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected. (Applause.)

Of course, peace is hard to achieve. There’s a reason why it’s remained elusive for six decades. The upheaval and uncertainty in Israel’s neighborhood makes it that much harder — from the horrific violence raging in Syria, to the transition in Egypt. And the division within the Palestinian leadership makes it harder still — most notably, with Hamas’s continued rejection of Israel’s very right to exist.

But as hard as it may be, we should not, and cannot, give in to cynicism or despair. The changes taking place in the region make peace more important, not less. And I’ve made it clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met. (Applause.) That’s why we continue to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel, and will continue to support the peace treaty with Egypt. That’s why — just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace — we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, and reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements. (Applause.) And that is why my administration has consistently rejected any efforts to short-cut negotiations or impose an agreement on the parties. (Applause.)

As Rosy noted, last year, I stood before you and pledged that, “the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations.” As you know, that pledge has been kept. (Applause.) Last September, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed that any lasting peace must acknowledge the fundamental legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns. I said that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, our friendship with Israel is enduring, and that Israel must be recognized. No American President has made such a clear statement about our support for Israel at the United Nations at such a difficult time. People usually give those speeches before audiences like this one — not before the General Assembly. (Applause.)

And I must say, there was not a lot of applause. (Laughter.) But it was the right thing to do. (Applause.) And as a result, today there is no doubt — anywhere in the world — that the United States will insist upon Israel’s security and legitimacy. (Applause.) That will be true as we continue our efforts to pursue — in the pursuit of peace. And that will be true when it comes to the issue that is such a focus for all of us today: Iran’s nuclear program — a threat that has the potential to bring together the worst rhetoric about Israel’s destruction with the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand: No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction. (Applause.) And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and all of Israel’s leaders.

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States. (Applause.)

Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

And that is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people, and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is what we have done. (Applause.)

When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters. Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to thousands, without facing broad pushback from the world. In the region, Iran was ascendant — increasingly popular, and extending its reach. In other words, the Iranian leadership was united and on the move, and the international community was divided about how to go forward.

And so from my very first months in office, we put forward a very clear choice to the Iranian regime: a path that would allow them to rejoin the community of nations if they meet their international obligations, or a path that leads to an escalating series of consequences if they don’t. In fact, our policy of engagement — quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime — allowed us to rally the international community as never before, to expose Iran’s intransigence, and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.

Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before. Some of you will recall, people predicted that Russia and China wouldn’t join us to move toward pressure. They did. And in 2010 the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly supported a comprehensive sanctions effort. Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime. They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011. Many questioned whether we could hold our coalition together as we moved against Iran’s Central Bank and oil exports. But our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere are joining us. And in 2012, the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions.

That is where we are today — because of our work. Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure. And by the way, the Arab Spring has only increased these trends, as the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is exposed, and its ally — the Assad regime — is crumbling.

Of course, so long as Iran fails to meet its obligations, this problem remains unresolved. The effective implementation of our policy is not enough — we must accomplish our objective. (Applause.) And in that effort, I firmly believe that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy — backed by pressure — to succeed.

The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program. Now, the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists. Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July — thanks to our diplomatic coordination — a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold. (Applause.) Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision. They can choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end.

And given their history, there are, of course, no guarantees that the Iranian regime will make the right choice. But both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved diplomatically. After all, the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons. That’s what history tells us.

Moreover, as President and Commander-in-Chief, I have a deeply held preference for peace over war. (Applause.) I have sent men and women into harm’s way. I’ve seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who’ve come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don’t make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those moments as the most searing of my presidency. And for this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when the time and circumstances demand it. And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.

We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically. Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States — (applause) — just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. (Applause.)

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. (Applause.) That includes all elements of American power: A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency. (Applause.)

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. (Applause.) And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests. (Applause.)

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world. Already, there is too much loose talk of war. Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program. For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster. Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built. Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: Speak softly; carry a big stick. (Applause.) And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve, and that our coordination with Israel will continue.

These are challenging times. But we’ve been through challenging times before, and the United States and Israel have come through them together. Because of our cooperation, citizens in both our countries have benefited from the bonds that bring us together. I’m proud to be one of those people. In the past, I’ve shared in this forum just why those bonds are so personal for me: the stories of a great uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald, to my memories of returning there with Elie Wiesel; from sharing books with President Peres to sharing seders with my young staff in a tradition that started on the campaign trail and continues in the White House; from the countless friends I know in this room to the concept of tikkun olam that has enriched and guided my life. (Applause.)

As Harry Truman understood, Israel’s story is one of hope. We may not agree on every single issue — no two nations do, and our democracies contain a vibrant diversity of views. But we agree on the big things — the things that matter. And together, we are working to build a better world — one where our people can live free from fear; one where peace is founded upon justice; one where our children can know a future that is more hopeful than the present.

There is no shortage of speeches on the friendship between the United States and Israel. But I’m also mindful of the proverb, “A man is judged by his deeds, not his words.” So if you want to know where my heart lies, look no further than what I have done — to stand up for Israel; to secure both of our countries; and to see that the rough waters of our time lead to a peaceful and prosperous shore. (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the people of Israel. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

END
11:42 A.M. EST

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