The 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference was a huge success, with over 13,000 delegates, 339 members of the Senate and House, and lobbying appointments with every member of the Senate and House.
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Conference by live video, expressing his appreciation for President Obama's work and emphasizing three priorities: Iran, Syria, and peace with the Palestinians.
Vice President Joe Biden was amazing. His outline of the Obama administration's Middle East foreign policy was frequently interrupted by applause and standing ovations.
We lobbied for the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, the United States Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2013, Senate Resolution 65, which reiterates our commitment to stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability, and security assistance for Israel.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is off to a strong start. His first meeting as Secretary of Defense with a foreign counterpart was with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Barak wished Hagel well in his Policy Conference speech. When Hagel met with Barak on Tuesday, Hagel reiterated his commitment to Israel's security and to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Hagel also noted his outstanding working relationship dating back to Minister Barak's days as prime minister.
Barak said at the Policy Conference that a two-state solution with the Palestinians is the only long-term solution to secure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state.
Vice President Biden once again made it abundantly clear yesterday that he and the President are firmly committed to the pro-Israel community's agenda. His words this morning reiterated an unmistakable message to Iran's leaders that the President will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Further, the Vice President sent a warning to all of Israel's enemies that, as Israel pursues a permanent peace with its neighbors, the Obama Administration has Israel's back — a promise that has been proven time and again over the last four years. The Administration deserves tremendous praise for its unwavering support and we are eagerly awaiting the President's trip to Israel, during which he can continue to demonstrate his unprecedented support for the Jewish state.
It is unfortunate that the entire Democratic Party has embraced President Obama's shameful refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is Israel's capital,
declared Mitt Romney on September 4.
The deletion of a single sentence about Jerusalem in the Democratic platform, which reportedly had been vetted by officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), generated hysterical headlines that went viral and ricocheted throughout cyberspace, arousing panic among Democrats and glee among Republicans. (The Democrats reinserted the language on September 5 after President Obama "intervened directly.")
Ironically, affirming Jerusalem's status as the capital of Israel and the importance of relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been a largely Democratic strategy for nearly four decades, particularly when there has been an incumbent Republican president in the White House. Republicans latch on to it whenever a Democratic president is running for re-election.
A recent article by Barry Rubin provides a preview of the misleading arguments and half-truths we can expect from now until November. Rubin compresses so much nonsense into so little space that I'll only cover some of his article today, and the rest later.
Rubin begins his article with a strawman argument, that we claim President Obama is good simply because he speaks warmly about Israel. It is true that President Obama speaks warmly about Israel, but his record is the basis for the claim that he is strong on Israel.
President Obama's record on Israel is outstanding.
President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran's illicit nuclear program, restored Israel's qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, taken US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.
Not all presidents say "nice" things about Israel.
Rubin gets it wrong even on his own terms. Words do matter, and not all presidents say nice things about Israel. Gerald Ford threatened to reassess America's strategic relations with Israel, Ronald Reagan condemned Israel's attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor, Bush I decried lobbyists for Israel (he actually attacked citizen lobbyists like you and me), and in 2003 Bush II rebuked then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by rescinding $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. In 2004, the Bush administration abstained rather than veto a UN resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling. If President Obama had done anything like what Ford, Reagan, Bush I or Bush II had done to Israel, then maybe Rubin would have something to write about.
It is true that President Obama speaks warmly of Israel, but Rubin leaves out to whom President Obama speaks warmly about Israel.
It's easy to tell AIPAC how important the US-Israel relationship is. AIPAC already knows. The difference between President Obama and previous presidents is that President Obama eloquently delivers the case for Israel and a strong US-Israel relationship to those who need to hear it most.
During the 2008 campaign, I participated in a conference call with Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), one of Israel's best friends in Congress in either party. Rothman asked us to imagine the impact of a president named Barack Hussein Obama telling the entire world, including the Arab world, that America stands with Israel.
That's exactly what President Obama did when he went to Cairo in 2009 and told the Arab and Muslim world that America's bond with Israel is "unbreakable."
He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is "baseless, ignorant, and hateful." He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is "deeply wrong." He said that "Palestinians must abandon violence" and that "it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus." And he said that "Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist." Who knows where we'd be today if previous Presidents had had the courage to personally deliver this message on Arab soil.
In 2011, President Obama went to the UN, another forum not known for its love for Israel, and told the world that
America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let's be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.
These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.
The Israeli newspaper Yehidot Aharonot said that "An American President has never given such a pro-Israel speech at the UN."
Isn't that what we want from our President?
Under President Obama, the US-Israel relationship is warmer than ever.
Yet Rubin says that President Obama is "cold" toward Israel. Former Congressman Robert Wexler explained just last month that this "coldness" argument is
the argument Republican surrogates make. They say he's cold. I hear that he doesn't feel Israel in his kishkes. I think that's something you say when you don't have any factual arguments to make. What does it mean that he's cold? Does being cold mean articulating the strongest pro-Israel argument ever at the UN - a forum not warm to Israel? Is it cold that America has engaged in the largest joint military operation between the US and Israel in Israel's history during the Obama administration? Is it cold that more than 200 high-level Pentagon officials visited Israel during the last calendar year? Is it cold that America and Israel will likely engage in an even larger joint military exercise this year? And I'll tell you one group who doesn't believe the relationship is cold - that's the current leadership in Tehran.
No wonder the vast majority of Jews vote Democratic and will continue to vote Democratic.
Aside from exceptions like Congressmen Joe Walsh and Ron Paul, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans support pro-Israel positions. But only the Democratic party is good on Israel and the other values we cherish.
I begin with a belated beracha: "Shehechiyanu v'kimanu lazman hazeh," giving thanks to God that I lived long enough to attend an AIPAC Policy Conference.
When in the long history of the Jewish people has it been possible for 13,000 Jews to gather together in peace, for our own purposes and to exercise our natural right as citizens to present our concerns to the representatives of our government? 2,000 years of Jewish lives would call this a miracle. It is the miracle of America and we should not take it for granted.
Before I share any other highlights from the conference, let me describe one in particular that could equally justify my saying the beracha. The opportunity to be in the same hall with Shimon Perez was unforgettable. To stand and applaud a man who stood next to David Ben-Gurion in the founding of the State of Israel, to re-live imaginatively the transformations that he has lived and from Polish refugee, to Kibbutznik, to soldier in the War of Independence, to political leader, Defense Minister, Foreign Minister, Prime Minister, architect of peace even when it fails, committed to strength for the purpose of achieving peace — I felt like I was given the opportunity to listen to George Washington, but a George Washington whose rabbi grandfather, at the train station when he left Poland for Palestine, whispered in his ear: "Be Jewish." He never saw his grandfather again. His grandfather was locked in his shtetl's synagogue with the rest of his congregation and the synagogue was burned to the ground. President Perez made it clear that "being Jewish," articulating through his love and devotion to Israel those values that define what is means to be Jewish, has been his life's work and is our life's work. Whether via an Israeli national identity or an American national identity, "being Jewish" is the transcendent theme of a Jewish life.
Today, House Republicans unveiled their new budget that — like their budget from last year — fails to address America's budget needs responsibly or preserve vital social safety net programs.
Last year, several Jewish community organizations and leaders expressed deep concern about the Republicans' budget proposals. The GOP's budget this year contains similar policies that only amplify the Republican Party's message that it does not support the programs supported by the mainstream of the American Jewish community.
Indeed, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's Associate Director Mark Pelavin said:
As an affirmation of our national priorities, the budget is inherently and inescapably a moral document. We support, and have long supported, a federal budget that reflects our solemn moral obligation to guard the most vulnerable in our society. House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), however, has chosen a different path. By ending the entitlement status of Medicaid and Medicare, fundamentally altering the tax system, and slashing spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and education programs, the Ryan plan would turn our backs on our obligation to care for all Americans.
Following President Obama's address at the national AIPAC conference this past weekend, Obama-themed yarmulkes (Jewish skullcaps) popularly known as "Obamulkes" have experienced an overnight surge in sales. Made in the USA and available at Obamulkes.com, these ivory suede yarmulkes feature the "Obama 2012" logo professionally printed in red and blue.
Creator Matthew Walters sees the current spike in sales as a positive sign for President Obama's re-election prospects, particularly in "swing" states like Florida and Pennsylvania - where strong Jewish support could be the deciding factor in November. "Compared to our average weekly sales over the past few months, this feels like a tangible 'bump' in the polls among Jewish voters. The interesting thing is that sales are coming from Jewish supporters all over the country: Colorado, Illinois, Michigan — not simply New York or D.C. where you might expect it," he suggests.
It is simply beyond the pale to trivialize the deadly danger Iran poses by turning it into yet another political football — particularly for such an issue of profound interest to America's and Israel's security. These candidates have worked overtime to turn support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship into a partisan wedge issue, and now they're doing it surrounding the effort to stop Iran - and it must stop, for the sake of America and Israel both. Of course their claims have zero basis in fact. The Washington Post just gave Mitt Romney 'Two Pinocchios' for his claims regarding the President and Iran, and major American newspapers have noted that between the President and these candidates, their 'approaches differ little' over Iran-political rhetoric notwithstanding.
The President's words at AIPAC could not have been clearer, when he outlined his policy of prevention and his clear threat of use of force. And Prime Minister Netanyahu could not have been clearer when he noted that Israel and the United States under this Administration have 'exactly the same policy' regarding Iran. The record speaks for itself; the Obama Administration has leveled the toughest crippling sanctions against Iran ever, while clearly telegraphing that all options - military included — remain on the table. Anyone pretending otherwise is trying to get elected, without a policy alternative — facts-be-damned, and without regard to the damage done to Israel's or America's security.
Enough is enough. The time to irresponsibly place partisanship above stopping Iran has to stop for the GOP presidential candidates.
Today is the final day of the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference. Defense Sec. Leon Panetta and three of the four top GOP candidates addressed the conference's 13,000 supporters. Presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) (right) appeared in person while Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) appeared via satellite.
On Sunday, Israeli President Shimon Peres and US President Barack Obama addressed the conference hall. Obama said his policy toward Iran is not one of containment but of preventing the nation from developing a nuclear weapon. He also defended his policies toward Israel and stated the U.S. commitment to preserve Israel's security.
In a side conversation, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu met Monday morning to discuss the status of the U.S.-Israel alliance. The president reiterated that the U.S. did not want the possibility of nuclear weapons "falling into terrorist's hands" and said there is a still a window that allows some negotiation. Pres. Obama also said he continues to reserve all options in dealing with Iran.
As the world faces monumental challenges, I know that Israel and America will face them together. We stand together because we are fired by the same ideals and inspired by the same dream — the dream of achieving security, prosperity and peace.
This dream seemed impossible to many Jews a century ago.
This month, my father celebrated his one-hundredth birthday. When he was born, the Czars ruled Russia, the British Empire spanned the globe and the Ottomans ruled the Middle East. During his lifetime, all of these empires collapsed, others rose and fell, and the Jewish destiny swung from despair to a new hope - the rebirth of the Jewish state.
(Thanks to Ilan Chaim for helping us obtain a transcript of President Peres' remarks. - promoted by Publisher)
In his speech, Israeli President Shimon Peres thanked US President Barak Obama for his political and diplomatic support on the assistance he has given Israel during the three-and-a-half years of his presidency.
As The President of the State of Israel I came here first and foremost to say on behalf of my people:
Thank you President Obama, for being such a good friend.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Senator Joe Lieberman deliver remarks to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee at the second day of its annual conference at the Washington Convention Center.
One day before he meets with the Israeli Prime Minister, President Obama address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington. He addressed the situation in the Middle East, including the situation in Iran. Other speakers at the conference today include Israeli President Shimon Peres. Tomorrow, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be speaking and on Tuesday, Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum will be speaking.
Every time that I come to AIPAC, I'm impressed to see so many young people here - students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging 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. For inspiration, you can look to the man who is being honored at this conference - my friend, President Shimon Peres.
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, and when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea - towards home.
I have just returned from the Policy Conference of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee). This year's convention was particularly exciting and provocative. Beyond the speakers of notoriety and prominence, however, I left the conference with a clearer and deeper sense of what it means to support and advocate for Israel. Indeed, that is the explicit mission of AIPAC. Simply put, AIPAC is about knowing where you stand.
On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years—that, even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.
A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and their children can live free from the threat of violence. It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.
America’s commitment to Israel’s security also flows from a deeper place —and that’s the values we share. As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedom we cherish must be constantly nurtured. And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland of the Jewish people.
We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood. I’ve seen it firsthand. When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland. When I went to Sderot, I saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket. And when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I grasped the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.
Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.
That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.
You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Here in the U.S., we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime. At the United Nations, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world. Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Remarks by Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to the President at the AIPAC Summit in Hollywood, Florida on October 25, 2010
It is always a pleasure to speak to AIPAC, one of the most active and well-informed foreign policy groups in the country.
I want to spend some time talking to you today about an issue you care deeply about and where the AIPAC membership has been deeply engaged: Iran. It is also the issue on which I spend much of my time.
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to your Policy Conference in Washington six months ago, she laid out the Obama administration's fundamental approach to what is one of the most complicated and serious challenges facing the United States today. It is an approach rooted in the fundamentals of diplomacy and statecraft: building leverage through creative and persistent diplomacy to change the behavior of a government insistent on threatening its neighbors, supporting terrorism, and pursuing a nuclear program in violation of its international obligations.
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