Full Text Israel Political Brief January 28, 2013: PM Benjamin Netanyahu Meets with Delegation of US Congressmen Led by Rep. Rob Wittman

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PM Netanyahu Meets with Delegation of US Congressmen Led by Rep. Rob Wittman

Source: PMO, 1-28-13
יום שני י”ז שבט תשע”ג

Photo by GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, today met with a bipartisan delegation from the US House of Representatives led by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA). The Prime Minister said: “We’ve had very close cooperation on all things, including the developing matters in Syria, very close cooperation between our two governments. I think this is important for the stability of the region, for the security of Israel and it’s much appreciated.”

Rep. Wittman said: “We deeply value the relationship between the United States and Israel. With all the challenges in the region, as you spoke about, we are very committed to make sure we are here to understand the challenges and where we can help Israel meet these challenges and make sure that the region operates in the best interests of all.”

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Israel Political Brief November 16, 2012: US Senate, House resolutions back Israel’s actions in Gaza

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Senate, House resolutions back Israel’s actions in Gaza

Source: JTA, 11-16-12

Both Houses of the U.S. Congress unanimously passed resolutions expressing support for Israel’s “inherent right to act in self-defense.”

The identical non-binding resolutions passed Thursday in the Senate and Friday in the U.S. House of Representatives….READ MORE

Jewish News Brief April 18, 2012: US Congres votes unanimously to award Roaoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal

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House votes unanimously for Wallenberg medal

Source: JTA, 4-18-12

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal.

The vote Tuesday, two days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, is part of an effort to confer the honor upon Wallenberg in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth in August.

“By sacrificing his personal safety, and ultimately his life, to protect the lives of a generation of Jews, Raoul Wallenberg exhibited the kind of noble courage that we prize in America,” said William Daroff, the director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, which has led lobbying for the act that would confer the honor. “On behalf of the countless Jews saved through his mission, we are grateful for the House’s action today to permanently honor a global hero.”

Wallenberg, a neutral Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the German occupation in 1944, issued Swedish travel documents — known as “Wallenberg passports” — to at least 20,000 Jews and also set up more than 30 safe houses for Jews. Other neutral diplomats collaborated in the effort.

The details of Wallenberg’s fate have remained a mystery. He disappeared while being escorted out of Hungary toward the Soviet Union. The Soviets claimed that he died of a heart attack in 1957, but other evidence indicated that he was killed in Lubyanka prison or that he may have lived years longer….READ MORE

Remembering and Honoring Courage

Source: WH, 4-19-12

In his video message, President Obama speaks for all Americans who remember the courageous and selfless acts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. In 2012, Sweden is celebrating the 100thanniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, a diplomat who chose not to be indifferent and to rise to a higher moral calling. We remember and revere this courageous man whose efforts saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust.  Wallenberg paid with his life for his commitment to basic values. And we all have the obligation to ponder the full measure of Wallenberg’s personal sacrifice and tragedy.

Born into wealth, for Wallenberg turning a blind eye to the hardship and suffering of others would have been easy. Instead, as First Secretary at the Swedish Legation in Budapest, Hungary during the darkest days of World War II, Wallenberg demonstrated a sense of self-sacrifice to the greater good of his fellow human beings that is a lesson for all of us.

Other diplomats chose to risk their careers and even their lives, and defied official protocols, rules and immigration “policies” to rescue Jews. Many of these diplomats were censured or punished for their acts of courage.  Some were fired or were stripped of their ranks and pensions. Their rescue efforts took many forms. Among other selfless acts, they issued visas, citizenship papers and other forms of documentation that allowed Jews to escape the Nazis.

Today at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, you will find not only Raoul Wallenberg’s tree planted along the Avenue of the Righteous, but also 2,000 other trees and 18,000 other names engraved in the walls of The Garden of the Righteous in remembrance of those who risked their lives to save European Jews from the Holocaust.

Why did they do it?  Because they all believed that: “One man can make a difference.” That is the sentence written over the front door of the Raoul Wallenberg School in Brooklyn, New York, one of many American institutions honoring Wallenberg. In 1981, the U.S. Congress made Wallenberg an honorary U.S. citizen, at that time just the second in our history.

“The importance of not being indifferent” is a timely and relevant operating principle in our relationship with the world today. Advancing human dignity and protecting universal rights is at the core of American values, and it is relevant to the challenges of our time.

As we consider Wallenberg’s personal sacrifice, we must remember Wallenberg’s tragic end: many historians believe he languished in lonely incarceration for months or even years before being murdered. Wallenberg epitomizes what self-sacrifice for the sake of others is all about.

Mark F. Brzezinski is the United States Ambassador to Sweden

Israel Political Brief April 11, 2012: US Congress Democrats urge President Obama to advance 2-state solution supported at J-Street Conference

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House members urge Obama to advance 2-state solution

Source: JTA, 4-11-12

A J Street-backed letter from 74 Congressional lawmakers urged President Obama to reaffirm support for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

The members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all Democrats, signed on to what was the key agenda item during J Street’s advocacy day on March 27, which coincided with its annual conference.

“In our view, support for a two-state resolution is inseparable from such support for Israel, its special relationship with the United States, and its very survival as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people,” the letter said.

Seven Jewish members signed on to the letter, including two of the letter’s chief sponsors, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). Other notable Jewish members to sign the letter were Reps. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), Bob Filner (D-Calif.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

Another signatory was Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the budget committee.

In a press release announcing the letter’s signers, J Street’s director of government affairs, Dylan Williams, noted that the lawmakers “are making clear that to be pro-Israel is to support active U.S. engagement in achieving a two-state solution.”

“If the U.S. Congress does not make a viable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a cornerstone of foreign policy in the region, then we are not truly helping Israel to face one its most critical challenges,” Williams said in the press release.

Israel Political Brief March 25, 2012: US Congress lift holds & release $88.6 million in aid to Palestinians

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Congress frees up some PA funds

Source: JTA, 3-25-12

The United States plans to release $88.6 million in development funds for the Palestinian Authority.

Congress members announced the planned release Friday to the grudging gratification of the PA, which needs the money to stay fiscally afloat.

In August, Republican lawmakers froze $147 million in U.S. aid to protest the PA’s attempt to sidestep stalled peace talks with Israel and win statehood status at international forums.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), chairwoman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, limited the release to $88.6 million.

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad called the release “very important” but told reporters, “The entire sum must be sent … in order to support the Palestinian Authority’s budget.”

Full Text Israel Political Brief March 7, 2012: PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks on Return to Israel from Canada & US Trip

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PM Netanyahu’s Remarks upon his Return to Israel from Canada and the US:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned a short while ago today from his visit to Canada, where he met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the US, where he met with President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense US and members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Upon landing, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “I return from a very important visit to the US and Canada. I was received warmly, we have many courageous friends. We are returning for Purim, and this evening we will read in the Book of Esther about those days in which Jews were not masters of their fate and could not defend themselves. Today we are in a different world and a different era; we have a strong state and army. The threats have not disappeared, but we can defend ourselves. We have very many friends that stand at our side and will do so at all times.”

Video: PM Netanyahu’s Remarks upon his Return to Israel from Canada and the US

Netanyahu says Israel’s friends will stand by her

Source: JTA, 3-7-12

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has “many courageous friends.”

In remarks after landing in Israel following a visit to Canada and the United States, Netanyahu said, “I was received warmly, we have many courageous friends.”

“We are returning for Purim, and this evening we will read in the Book of Esther about those days in which Jews were not masters of their own fate and could not defend themselves. Today we are in a different world and a different era; we have a strong state and army. The threats have not disappeared, but we can defend ourselves. We have very many friends that stand at our side and will do so at all times.”

On his North American visit, Netanyahu met with President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and members of both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

At his meeting with Obama on Monday, Netanyahu reportedly gave the U.S. leader a copy of the book of Esther. The leaders’ talks reportedly centered on the Iranian nuclear threat.

Israel Political Brief March 6, 2012: In Washington, everyone loves Benjamin Netanyahu

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In Washington, everyone loves Benjamin Netanyahu

Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner listen as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in the Capitol March 6, 2012. | Reuters

In the FourSquare of American politics, Netanyahu is the mayor of Washington this week. | AP Photo

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is an “old friend,” Mitt Romney told folks at the American Israel Public Affairs Conference in Washington Tuesday.

Rep. Howard Berman, the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee, edged in close enough at a Capitol press conference to be photographed with Netanyahu.

And Sen. Mark Kirk, who recently suffered a stroke, put out a press release and video to mark Netanyahu’s wish that the Illinois Republican would recover quickly. Kirk isn’t Jewish, but a lot of folks in his old Chicago-area House district are.

In the FourSquare of American politics, Bibi Netanyahu is the mayor of Washington this week….. READ MORE

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) can’t agree on much, but they joined arms to embrace Netanyahu for a private lunch meeting with Berman and other lawmakers who have a hand in foreign policy.

And both leaders sent out transcripts of their remarks at the joint press conference.

“Now is the time to stand together,” Boehner said. “We are here today to tell the prime minister that Congress intends to do so.”

Netanyahu tried to return some of the congressional love during his press conference on Tuesday in the Capitol.

“I don’t think there is a place anywhere else on earth where we can match the clarity, courage and wisdom than … the halls of this institution,” Netanyahu said. “I go back to Israel feeling we have great friends in Washington.”

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: Benjamin Netanyahu goes to Congress, saying patience with Iran wears thin

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Benjamin Netanyahu goes to Congress, saying patience with Iran wears thin

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to find greater sympathy in Congress than at the Obama White House for his view that time grows short to halt Iran’s nuclear-weapons development. 

Source: CS Monitor, 3-6-12

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (l.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at the US Capitol in Washington on Tuesday.

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Enlarge

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets on Capitol Hill Tuesday with members of Congress, and he’s likely to find greater sympathy for his view that Israel can’t wait much longer to stop Iran than he did at the White House.

President Obama expressed confidence that the two leaders prefer a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions when he hosted Mr. Netanyahu Monday. He encouraged the Israeli leader to have patience and allow toughened international economic sanctions more time to bite before launching military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities, which the West suspects is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu gave his answer loud and clear in a speech before a prominent pro-Israel lobby Monday night, saying Israel had been patient long enough.

“Israel has waited patiently for the international community to resolve this issue. We’ve waited for diplomacy to work. We’ve waited for sanctions to work,” he told 13,000 cheering participants at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee national conference. “None of us can afford to wait much longer.”…READ MORE

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.”

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