Thank you, thank you very much.
Thank you, Rosie. And thank you Howard, Michael, Robert and all the leadership of AIPAC. Thank you for everything you do to strengthen the great alliance between Israel and The United States of America.
Let me say a special hello to my friend, Vice President Biden. He just spoke there. I have to say that I’ve learned over the years so much from Joe. I want to thank him for his steadfast support for Israel over so many decades. I’ve learned what Irish families are about from Joe Biden. I learned about his father. I learned that his background and ours is so similar, deeply grounded in values, and I just heard those values expressed.
I want to also recognize, and I’m sure you’ll all join me in recognizing, Defense Minister Barak, who I’ve sent to represent Israel in the AIPAC conference. Ehud, I want to thank you for the years of service for Israel’s security. Thank you, Ehud.
And I want to recognize Ambassadors Oren and Prossor. Michael and Ron, thank you both for your terrific service you’re doing for Israel every day.
Finally, I want to thank all of you who have come from far and wide to be here today to express your support for Israel.
As you know I was hoping to speak to you in person, but unfortunately, I had to stay in Israel to do something a lot more enjoyable – putting together a coalition government. What fun! If I can offer a free piece of advice -- Don’t adopt Israel’s system of government. You know, every system has its plusses and minuses. But believe me, it’s a lot easier finding common ground between two parties than it is to find common ground among ten parties. You think you have a difficulty working out your politics, believe me, this is harder. Despite the difficulties, I intend to form a strong and stable government in the days ahead.
The first thing that my new government will have the privilege of doing is to warmly welcome President Obama to Israel. I look forward to the President’s visit. It will give me an opportunity, along with the people of Israel, to express our appreciation for what he has done for Israel.
The President and I agreed to focus our discussions on three main issues: First, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons; Second, the deteriorating situation in Syria; And third, the need to find a responsible way to advance the peace with the Palestinians.
Now, on the first point: Iran has made it clear that it will continue to defy the will of the international community. Time after time, the world’s leading powers have tabled diplomatic proposals to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. But I have to tell you the truth. Diplomacy has not worked.
Iran ignores all these offers. It is running out the clock. It has used negotiations, including the most recent ones, to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program. Thus far, the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program either. The sanctions have hit the Iranian economy hard. That is true. But Iran's leaders just grit their teeth and move forward. Iran enriches more and more uranium; It installs faster and faster centrifuges; It’s still not crossed the red line I drew at the United Nations last September. But Iran is getting closer to that line, and it’s putting itself in a position to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.
Ladies and Gentlemen, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow Iran to cross that red line. We have to stop its nuclear enrichment program before it’s too late. And I have to tell you, and with the clarity of my brain: words alone will not stop Iran; Sanctions alone will not stop Iran.
Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail. I deeply appreciate something that President Obama has said repeatedly. You've just heard Vice President Biden say it again: Israel must always be able to defend itself by itself against any threat to its existence. The Jewish people know the cost of being defenseless against those who would exterminate us. We will never let that happen again.
Joe Biden described his meeting with Golda Meir. She said to him: our secret weapon is we have no other place to go. Well, we have our place under the sun. And ladies and gentlemen, we shall defend it. The rebirth of Israel is one of the greatest events in history. I think Churchill said it transcends generations, it transcends centuries. He said it is significant in the perspective of thousands of years. We never lose sight of that perspective. We shall always defend the one and only Jewish state.
The second issue I intend to discuss with President Obama is the situation in Syria. Over the last two years, over 70,000 Syrians have been killed. Hundreds of thousands have been wounded and maimed. Millions have been forced to flee their homes. Besides this humanitarian crisis of great tragedy, Syria could soon become a strategic crisis. One of monumental proportions. Syria is a very poor country, but it has chemical weapons, anti-aircraft weapons, and many other of the world’s most deadly and sophisticated arms. As the Syrian regime collapses, the danger of these weapons falling into the hands of terrorist groups is very real. Terror groups such as Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda are trying to seize these weapons as we speak. They are like hyenas feeding off a carcass -- and the carcass is not even dead yet. These terror groups are committed to Israel’s destruction. They have repeatedly attacked the United States. They are global terrorist organizations that can perpetrate terror attacks anywhere in the world. We’ve just seen that, in Cyprus, in Bulgaria, everywhere. This is why we have a common interest in preventing them from obtaining these deadly weapons.
I know that here too President Obama fully appreciates Israel’s need to defend itself. And I look forward to discussing with him ways to address this challenge to our common security.
The third issue I intend to discuss with President Obama is our common quest for peace. Israel seeks a peace with our Palestinian neighbors – a peace that will end our conflict once and for all. That peace must be grounded in reality; and it must be grounded in security. Israel withdrew from Lebanon; We withdrew from Gaza; We gave up territory. We got terror. We cannot allow that to happen a third time.
Israel is prepared for a meaningful compromise. But as Israel’s Prime Minister, I will never compromise on our security. We must work together to find a realistic path forward – And I think that path has to be a measured step-by-step process in which we work to advance to a verifiable, durable and defensible peace. It has to be defensible, because in the Middle East, especially in this Middle East, a peace you cannot defend will not hold for five minutes. It has to be verifiable, because as we move from one step to another, we have to make sure that we can not only defend ourselves but also that our neighbors are actually telling their people, educating their children to live in peace. This is something we desperately want. We yearn for peace, we pray for peace, and with President Obama, we shall work for peace.
I look forward to discussing with President Obama when he comes here later this month all these issues. But in addition, I'll have a chance to show President Obama a different side of Israel, Israel that has become a technological marvel. It’s teeming with innovation. Israel, that each day pushes the boundaries of medicine and science to the ends of human imagination. Israel that has one of the world’s most vibrant cultures and one of the world’s most dynamic peoples.
Israel, the modern Jewish state living in the ancient Jewish homeland -- an oasis of liberty and progress in the heart of the Middle East where these ideas have yet to take root.
That is the Israel that all of you know.
That is the Israel that all of you love.
That is the Israel that so many Americans love.
And that is the Israel that will never stop standing shoulder to shoulder with the country that has been the greatest force for good that the world has ever known – the United States of America.
God bless America,
God bless Israel,
And God bless the American-Israeli alliance.
God bless you all. Thank you.
Sources: Prime Ministers Office