10/19/09 – 2009 AIPAC National Summit

Thank you, Ron. I appreciate your kind introduction. Ron was a great supporter of mine during my presidential campaign. I also want to take a moment to acknowledge my old friend Ed Levy, who was also most generous to support my campaign. And Ed’s attorney in Detroit is a partner with my brother Scott—the law firm is Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohen. Scott is the token Mormon.

It is a pleasure to participate in this national summit. The work you do has always been important— working to make Israel more secure, ensuring that American support remains strong, and confirming that Israel and America stand shoulder-to-shoulder in an increasingly dangerous world. I believe that your work is about to become far more important. It is for that reason that I flew here today to speak with you.

* * * *

I have been to Israel twice – mostly recently in 2007. I came away encouraged by what I saw.

On that last trip, I traveled (with some of the people in this room) by helicopter to Al-Fay Menasha. It was to tour a strategic span in the security fence, standing between the center of Israel and the West Bank. It is at that point that one can see just how narrow the waist of Israel actually is.

I was struck during that tour by the IDF officer that was briefing us. He bent over backwards to explain how low and how unobtrusive the fence was—how much effort had been expended to keep it from being too imposing. At one point, I respectfully interrupted him to explain that he didn’t need to apologize…at least not to this American. Because if America lived in a neighborhood like Israel’s, with suicide bombers crossing into our country to kill children in school buses, we’d be building a fence that was higher, thicker and hard as concrete. Israel should be proud that it values the blood of its countrymen—of its children—above the approbation of foreign bureaucrats.

During my last trip, I was impressed with the business community. As you know, my career was in business, as a management consultant, a venture capitalist and as a private equity investor. While in Israel, we met with entrepreneurs and business people. Their ingenuity demonstrated why it is that Israel has the highest density of start-ups in the world, and more companies on NASDAQ than all of India, China, Korea, Japan, and Europe combined. I understand that there is talk among some European organizations about boycotting Israeli products and barring Israeli academics. If they do, they will be punishing themselves more than they hurt Israel. Brilliant innovation and technology have always been able to penetrate the walls built by the uninformed, protectionist and prejudiced, and they always will.

Most of all, I was impressed with the people of Israel. That people actually immigrate to Israel, rather than fleeing from the threatening and violent neighborhood of the Middle East, is a testament to their courage, faith and character. It is an inspiration to an often self-indulgent world.

* * * *

America and Israel are bound together by common commitments and shared values. We believe in representative democracy and human rights. We believe in the rule of law–in learning, scholarship, and free inquiry. We believe in the dignity of the human soul and in its God-given right to ascend above government domination… with freedom to speak, worship, associate and think as one desires.

And because we share the same values, we also share many of the same adversaries. We reject oppression, terrorism, authoritarianism. Violent Jihadists have referred to America as the “great Satan” and to Israel as the “little Satan.” Of course, they don’t recognize the irony, committed as they are to the imposition of power over others, to violence, to brutality, to the subjugation of women and girls and to bigotry and racism.

Israel has been fighting all of these things from the moment it was born. As the United States carries on that fight in countries scattered across the globe, we know that Israel is America’s most ardent ally in the Middle East.

The world is fast becoming a more dangerous place. Liberty and peace are threatened in new and frightful ways. Russia is returning to its authoritarian ways, fueled by its energy stranglehold on Europe. China has married the power of free enterprise with the oppression of Communist rule. Violent Jihadists are fighting to crush people and nations across the globe. And rogue nations with maniacal autocrats are recklessly pursuing nuclear capabilities that puts the world in jeopardy. Left unchecked, a nuclear race will be joined by many, many others.

For all these reasons, America needs strong allies.
This is one reason why I am so very concerned by the current drift in our government’s relationship with Israel.

In pursuit of a peace process, the United States today has exerted substantial pressure on Israel while putting almost no pressure on the Palestinians and the Arab world.

Consider how little we ask of the Arab world. Why is it that only Egypt and Jordan have peace agreements with Israel? What about Saudi Arabia? The Saudi government will not even sit in the same room as the Israelis, let alone normalize relations or work towards a realistic peace agreement. In 2007, at the height of the Olmert-Abbas peace track, the Saudis were demanding that more U.S. companies comply with their boycott of Israel.

Israel, on the other hand, has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to a lasting and realistic peace. As you know well, in 2005, for example, Israel handed over the Gaza strip to the Palestinians. This generous, unilateral act was met in return with rockets fired into Israel, with a coup by Hamas in Gaza, and with two wars – one on the Lebanese border and another in Gaza.

Inexplicably, the United States now places the burden on Israel to make still more unilateral concessions. At the United Nations, we decried the building of new Israeli settlements but ignored the launching of Palestinian rockets. How is this possible? Have we not yet learned from the concessions in Gaza, as well as from all recorded history, that giving in to the demands of oppressors always and only leads to more demands, not to peace?

We can encourage both parties in the conflict, but we must never forget which one is our ally. Nor must we forget that Hamas, like other violent Jihadists, does not have a two-state solution as its objective—it has the conquest and annihilation of Israel as its objective. The notion that Hamas and violent Jihadists are motivated by “shared interests” and “common goals” is naïve in the extreme and dangerous to the entire free world.

This is one reason why America must never cede to the United Nations our commitment to Israel, our leadership of the free world and our defense of liberty. I will happily agree that the UN has done some good in its history. But I will also insist that it has also done terrible damage to the causes it claims to uphold. And on no issue has it been more irresponsible and morally reckless than when considering the fate of Israel.

Time and time again, the UN has become a forum for invective against the Jewish state. We saw it in 1975, when the UN passed an anti-Semitic resolution that condemned Israel as racist. And we have seen it in just the last few weeks, when the UN gave a platform to a Holocaust-denier who has pledged over and over again that he will wipe out Israel. It was a grotesque moment and another stain on the reputation of the United Nations. And congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu for having the moral courage to say what needed to be said to those members of the United Nations who stayed to listen to Mahmoud Achmadinejad—”Have you no shame!”

But the outrage did not stop there. A report, titled “United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” was the latest in a long line of infamous acts. The so-called Goldstone Report took Israel to task for defending itself after being pummeled by more than 7,000 missiles fired on Israel by Hamas. Hamas not only was targeting innocent civilians — it was also using innocent Palestinians as human shields. Israel took extraordinary measures to prevent civilian casualties. Yet who did the UN Human Rights Council see fit to condemn? Israel. Again, the words of Prime Minister Netanyahu, “A democracy legitimately defending itself against terror is morally hanged, drawn and
quartered, and given an unfair trial to boot.”

A world in which America is more attuned to the approbation of the United Nations than to its ally Israel is a world in peril. May this never be so.

* * * *

My concern extends to our entire foreign policy. If the U.S. Government engages tyrannies and autocracies – countries like Iran and North Korea, Syria and Russia, Sudan and Zimbabwe – based on the conviction that we are dealing with common interests more than competing interests, it will not end well.

Dean Acheson, President Truman’s Secretary of State, offered wise and timely counsel. Following the 2nd World War, America had recognized that not every power on this planet shared our goals and values. And this realization is what shaped the foreign policy that has guided us for 60 or so years. Truman, he said, had been “released from the acceptance of a dogma that builders and wreckers of a new world order could and should work happily and successfully together, [Truman] was free to combine our power and coordinate our action with those who did have a common purpose.”

Our approach to international relations must continue to adhere to the vision of Truman and Acheson. First, we should treat our allies like the allies they are. That means, for starters, not being harder on them, or demanding more from them, than we do from our adversaries. It means treating them with respect rather than offense. It means striving to make their lives easier rather than harder.
In short, we should honor the basic rules that govern state-to-state affairs. “Foreign policy commitments are not to be made and unmade at will,” Margaret Thatcher once said. “We cannot expect others to keep their word to us, unless we keep our word to them.”

Keeping our word to our allies is a matter of honor, but it is also a matter of self-interest. The United States needs allies for economic, political, and national security reasons. Good allies and strong alliances allow us to share the burdens we carry, complement and supplement our efforts, and present a united front against those who wish us harm.

When we treat any ally in a desultory manner – and especially if we act in a way that causes them to question our reliability, our resolve, our commitment and staying power – then they as well as our other allies, all of whom are watching very closely, will turn to others for their security.

When Poland and the Czech Republic are humiliated by us, they lose confidence in America’s support for them, and they may decide that they must incline more toward Russia.

If our friends in Latin America like Colombia become convinced that we are turning our back on them, they may feel compelled to become more accommodative to Hugo Chavez.

If Japan believes the United States is weakening its commitment in the Pacific, it may distance itself from America and draw closer to China.

When defenders of democracy and the rule of constitution and law in Honduras find that we have sided with their pro-Chavez illegal opposition, freedom fighters across the world, re-calculate their chances for success.
And if Arab nations believe that we will accommodate Iran’s ambition to dominate the Middle East with nuclear weapons, they will move closer to that very nation.

Whenever or wherever America steps away from one of its friends and allies, or shrinks in the face of belligerent tyrants, those who are allied with us may understandably or inevitably step closer to our foes. The advance of human rights and the defense of liberty demand that America stands firm with its allies—all of them.

* * * *
I now want to say more about Iran. The Iranian leadership is the greatest immediate threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet Union, and before that, Nazi Germany.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, has gone well beyond the boundary of outrage — beginning with his calculated desecration of history. When he denies the Holocaust, he could care less about history. His point is about the present and the future. His purpose is not merely to deny the Holocaust, but also to deny Israel. He is testing the waters. He wants to know who will object. And how they will register their objection.

The Iranian regime threatens not only Israel, but also every other nation in the region, and ultimately the world. It is a repressive regime… an intractable enemy of liberty and human rights… the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and subversive war. The threat it poses to the world would take on an entirely new dimension if Iran were allowed to become a nuclear power.

Earlier this month, senior staff members of the U.N. nuclear agency concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb. We also learned of a previously secret, illegal uranium enrichment facility that the Iranians had been hiding near Qom.

A nuclear Iran would be a tipping point in the proliferation of nuclear regimes.

It is beyond the scope of this address to provide a detailed tactical and strategic approach to Iran, as I endeavored to do at the Herzylia conference two years ago. In that address, I detailed the six critical steps that would have to immediately be taken to dissuade Iran from nuclear folly. Not a single one of them has been taken by America.

At this late stage I would simply say that it is long past time for America to recognize the nature of the regime we are dealing with. The Iranian regime is unalloyed evil, run by people who are at once ruthless and fanatical. Stop thinking that a charm offensive will talk the Iranians out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It will not. And agreements, unenforceable and unverifiable, will have no greater impact here than they did in North Korea. Once an outstretched hand is met with a clenched fist, it becomes a symbol of weakness and impotence. President Eisenhower said it well: “the care of freedom is not long entrusted to the weak and timid.”

The President of the United States can employ his admiration and good will to actually accomplish something meaningful and real in Iran– comprehensive, withering sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and international support for the forces of freedom within Iran. The people of Iran represent a major source of strength. By and large, they have not been radicalized by their government and clerics; in fact, the regime’s effort to crush the uprising against it has only alienated the people of Iran. They fear economic stagnation and they hate political repression. Most are not seeking a military confrontation with the West. Indeed, most want greater engagement with the West.

And the military option must remain on the table – and that threat needs to be credible. Unfortunately– for reasons that are unfathomable to me – our Government has signaled that the military option is effectively off the table. How can that be countenanced when an ally of the United States faces an existential threat?

I don’t pretend for a moment that the course of action to take with Iran is easy or obvious; there are costs to anything we do – but there are even greater costs if we do nothing at all. If we allow Iran under the rule of the mullahs to get a nuclear weapon, it will make the problems America faces today look like a walk in the park.
The clock is ticking, with no real progress to show for the precious time that has already lapsed.
* * * *

Earlier I mentioned President Truman. I’d like to end my remarks by recounting a remarkable day in the history of our two nations, as told by Michael Oren – Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

He tells how word of Israel’s birth reached Washington on May 14, 1948. At that moment, the armies of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq were mobilizing for war against the nascent state. The question on everyone’s mind was whether the United States would recognize this new nation of Israel and its self-proclaimed government.

Alone in the White House, with much of the world and many in his own Administration against recognizing Israel, Truman pondered the ramifications of his decision. At eleven minutes past six in the evening, an administration spokesman appeared before reporters at the White House. “This Government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine and that recognition has been requested by the provisional government thereof.” Then, reading from a printed text, understating the momentousness of his message, the spokesman said, “The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the State of Israel.”

Truman never regretted his decision or the key role he played in mid-wifing the birth of the Jewish state. He understood how on every level – moral and geopolitical, cultural and historical – it was right for America to stand with Israel.

Harry S. Truman was a wise and courageous president, a person of unshakeable principles, and a man who helped bend history in the direction of justice. Truman was a great president – in part because he was deeply committed to our friends, to our national character, and to the State of Israel. As it was, let us hope it shall be again.

Thank you very much.

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