March 26, 2010
Number 03/10 #05
Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu spent most of the past week in the US capital but, unlike with many previous visits by Israeli PMs, much of the trip remains the subject of conjecture. What is clear is that relations between Mr Netanyahu and the Obama Administration remain strained. Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon of the Jerusalem Post report on what they know of the meetings, and where the talks will progress from here. Today’s Update focuses on the trip, and on some of the the flaws in the Obama Administration’s approach to Israel.
The first piece is from Prof. Efraim Inbar, who argues that, both tactically and morally, Mr Netanyahu can say no to Mr Obama’s demands on Jerusalem. He points out Israel’s claims to Jerusalem, and the inconsistencies between Obama’s tough treatment of Israel and comparatively lenient treatment of the Palestinians. He also sets out why he believes Mr Netanyahu would have support for such a stand not only in Israel, but also in the US. To read his arguments, CLICK HERE.
Next up, Douglas Bloomfield from the Jerusalem Post takes aim at the contrast between the Obama Administration’s very public scolding of Israel for its building policies, and its near total silence on incitement against, and delegitimisation of, Israel by the Palestinian Authority. He points out that, of the two, the incitement is far more of an obstacle to peace, and gives several examples where the Palestinians have told inflammatory lies against the Jewish state. For his exposure of this American double standard, CLICK HERE.
A highlight of Mr Netanyahu’s trip to the US was the speech he gave at the the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. Eloquent as always, Mr Netanyahu expresses the importance of Jews finally being able to defend themselves. He restates his desire to work with the Palestinians, as well as the US, to achieve a peaceful outcome, but also bemoans the lack of Palestinian reciprocity for Israeli peace initiatives. To read what Mr Netanyahu had to say, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Prof. Eytan Gilboa explains why the Obama policies on the Middle East will achieve the opposite of what is intended. He also has some unkind things to say about General David Petraeus, based on widely reported, but incorrect, statements attributed to the general. However, his comments on this matter apply equally to those who have made statements similar to those allegedly made by General Petraeus.
- General Petraeus supposedly made comments to the effect that support for Israel is becoming a strategic liability for the US, comments eagerly seized on by those who believe, or want, this to be the case. Information about what the general actually did say is here and here.
- Jeff Jacoby explains why settlements shouldn’t stop peace talks, and that the Palestinians are refusing to negotiate because they prefer to sit back and let the Americans twist Israel’s arms.
- Charles Krauthammer argues that Obama created the Biden incident.
- An Israeli decision to build homes on the site of the Shepherd Hotel in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood has been in the news recently. BICOM explains what’s really happening there.
- A Jerusalem Post editorial looks at the double standards imposed on Israel and at Israel’s own efforts to maintain high moral standards in its defence forces, in the wake of a decision by the UN Human Rights Council to establish a committee to monitor allegations of Israeli “human rights violations and war crimes.“
- For those who missed it, an excellent editorial from the Australian on the British decision to expel an Israeli diplomat.
- Clifford May, President of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, gives his thoughts about the Obama Administration’s decision to appoint an ambassador to the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.
- Emanuele Ottolenghi suggests that the reason the Palestinians repeatedly reject Israeli peace offers is that they are increasingly leaning toward a bi-national state to keep alive their dreams of taking all of the land.
- News that Taliban fighters have admitted that the Iranians are training hundreds of their members to kill Western forces in Afghanistan.
BESA Center Perspectives Papers No. 103, March 25, 2010
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Obama administration’s attempt to force Israel to accept the division of Jerusalem as a prerequisite for peace talks is astonishing. Despite the obvious reluctance to confront an American president, Prime Minister Netanyahu can effectively resist such American pressure on Jerusalem. In fact, Jerusalem is the issue on which Netanyahu can best make a stand against Obama.
President Barack Obama capitalized on a minor Israeli glitch – the announcement of Israel’s plans to build in Ramat Shlomo – to fabricate a crisis in US-Israeli relations. Obama seeks to renegotiate the agreement reached for starting proximity talks with the Palestinians and to extract additional concessions from Israel. Most striking and central is the administration’s effort to force Israel into accepting the division of Jerusalem even before the talks start.
The White House expects that the Israeli prime minister will bend under pressure to its wishes. While in the past Netanyahu has proven susceptible to such pressure, the administration may be overplaying its hand on the issue of Jerusalem. Despite the obvious reluctance to confront an American president, Prime Minister Netanyahu can effectively resist American pressure. In fact, this is the issue on which Netanyahu can best take a stand against Obama.
The division of the city is opposed by the current democratically-elected Israeli government and (according to polls that I have directed) by over 70 percent of the Jews in Israel. Few issues in Israel command such a large and clear majority.
The timing of the crisis also serves Israel well. A few days before Passover when Jews repeat a 2,000-year-old text pledging, “Next year in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu can say no to American demands for concessions in Jerusalem. Rejection of the division of Jerusalem expresses the deepest wishes of an overwhelming number of Jews living both in Israel and the Diaspora.
In contrast to parts of Judea and Samaria, the Israeli need to maintain the status quo in Jerusalem is easiest to explain. The Palestinian claim to Jerusalem is weak. There was never a Palestinian state and the Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem for the past 150 years. Jerusalem has never been a capital of any political entity, except that of a Jewish State. Moreover, the Arab residents of Jerusalem, if given a choice, would in all probability prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty than become part of a failed Palestinian state. Finally, dividing a city makes very little urban or political sense.
Netanyahu has the rhetorical power to galvanize widespread Jewish support for continued and unrestrained Israeli rule in Jerusalem. In 1967, the Jews were fortunate to liberate Jerusalem, their ancient capital, and particularly the Temple Mount, their holiest site. The fortunes of the eternal city strike an emotional chord for every Jew. Even many non-Jews share the same sensitivity.
Israel can reject the Obama demands for additional confidence-building measures by pointing to Obama’s unfairness toward Israel. Netanyahu’s already significant concessions have been belittled by the American administration and rejected as a sign of Israeli seriousness entering into peace talks. Netanyahu’s acquiescence to the two-state paradigm was coolly received in Washington. A partial freeze in Judea and Samaria, an unprecedented concession by an Israeli government, was welcomed only as a “step in the right direction.” Agreeing to proximity talks instead of insisting on direct negotiations – another significant Israeli concession – also is not good enough for the Obama White House.
In contrast, Obama appears to relish humiliating and bullying Netanyahu, the prime minister of a democratic, embattled state. This appears to fit Obama’s overall foreign policy approach of estranging democratic allies while appeasing anti-American dictators.
Israel’s prime minister is acutely aware of the need for American support and friendship and has gone a long way to dispel skepticism about his sincere pursuit of peace. Israelis are frustrated with Obama for favoring the Palestinians, who continue to deny the right of Jewish self-determination and who continue to glorify terrorists that kill Jews. The US, under Obama, ignored the fact that the offers by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert to cede virtually all of the disputed territories were respectively rejected by Arafat in 2000 and ignored by his successor, Abbas, in 2008.
Moreover, in 2000 the Palestinians launched a campaign of terror and recently they have threatened to renew it. Similarly, after the Sharon government unilaterally withdrew from Gaza and dismantled all settlements in 2005, the Gaza Strip was converted into a launching pad for intensified missile attacks. Nowadays, it is the Palestinians that are dragging their feet, hoping that the US will force Israel to accept their preconditions.
Flagrant conflict with the US is not something an Israeli leader prefers, but sometimes the asymmetry between a great power and its small ally is not compelling. The Israeli interest in keeping Jerusalem united is more intense than the Obama desire for a foreign policy success. The balance of determination tilts in Israel’s favor. Moreover, Israel has some leverage by its nuisance value; that is, it can do things that the US does not like. One clear example is an attack on Iran. Another source of Israeli influence is the character of the American political system, which is susceptible to lobbies and popular sentiment.
Fortunately, the level of public support for Israel in the US is at a record high. Over two-thirds of Americans view Israel favorably and prefer the Jewish State to the Palestinians. Congress reflects such widespread attitudes. Since the President is not in sync with a huge majority of Americans on this issue, Israel has a good chance of convincing the American people that their president is unfair to the Jewish State and is wrong in trying to impose his views on democratic Israel. We already see American voices in the media and in Congress expressing criticism of Obama for not treating Netanyahu properly.
At stake is not just a policy issue. Hanna Arendt in her book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, points out that attitude toward Jews is the litmus test for measuring democratic retrogression. This is true of the attitude toward the Jewish state as well. The unwavering American commitment to democracy incorporates respect for choices made by other democracies. Israel can convince Americans that its democratically-elected government has every right to determine its future.
If Obama continues to insist on freezing construction in Jerusalem, Israel’s prime minister has the option to tell the US and the world that the Jews have returned to where King David established his capital 3,000 years earlier and that they intend to stay there. The text of such a response is easily available: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither. Let my tongue cleave to my palate if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy” (Psalms 137, 5-7). Once in a while such words have great power.
Prof. Efraim Inbar is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University.
BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family.
By DOUGLAS BLOOMFIELD
Jerusalem Post 25/03/2010
For the most part, administration calls to end Palestinian incitement have been brief, tepid and rare compared to the focus on Israeli settlements – and Palestinians have ignored them with impunity.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a tough-love lecture to the AIPAC faithful this week, reflecting both the Obama administration’s “rock solid” commitment to Israel’s security and its doubts about the Netanyahu government’s courage and commitment to peace.
Rarely has an American leader, especially one with her pro-Israel bona fides, been so blunt in public. It was a necessary message, but something was missing. She made only passing reference to a problem that in many ways is as serious as settlements, and possibly more so – Palestinian incitement.
If incitement were simply a matter of name calling, it wouldn’t be so important, but it goes much deeper, sending a clear message that Palestinian leaders do not consider Israel a legitimate state. Palestinians agreed in the 1993 Oslo Accords to end the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish incitement, but as events of the past week demonstrated, it persists. Most disturbing is that it comes not only from the extremists but also from the two leaders who the United States and Israel are banking on to chart the way to peace. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, exploited the current Washington-Jerusalem settlement dispute as an opportunity to harden their demands and fan the flames of hatred.
Fayyad told foreign ambassadors that the Palestinian violence was sparked by “an assault by extremist religious settlers on the Temple Mount.”
That was not just a lie; it was incitement. Settlements are indeed an obstacle to peace – often intentionally – but most will disappear with a peace agreement and the rest will be absorbed within Israel’s new borders. But the incitement can continue long afterward. Witness Egypt, where the media, mosques and government churn it out constantly, keeping the cold peace of more than 30 years from thawing.
Two incidents last week illustrate the problem. Near Ramallah, seat of the Abbas-Fayyad government, another memorial was dedicated in honor of the woman responsible for one of the deadliest terrorist incidents in Israeli history, the 1978 Coastal Road massacre that left 38 dead, including an American woman, and 72 wounded.
Making this terrorist a role model for Palestinian girls glorifies terrorism and murder, and teaches hatred.
MEANWHILE, THE rebuilt Hurva Synagogue, which had been destroyed by the Jordanian army in 1948 when Jordan drove all the Jews out of the Jewish Quarter, was rededicated last week in Jerusalem. Abbas exploited the occasion to stir up anger and violence against Israel. His government called on Palestinians to come to the Temple Mount to “save” the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aksa Mosque mosque from – fictitious – plans to tear them down and build a Third Temple.
Hamas called for a “Day of Rage.” Perhaps for emphasis, rockets were once again fired into the Negev from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Both Fatah and Hamas began speaking of the “Jerusalem intifada.” Clinton called the Day of Rage “purely and simply an act of incitement” in her AIPAC speech, and urged Abbas and Fayyad “to redouble their efforts to put an end to incitement and violence.”
But beyond that, the administration seems to pay scant attention to the problem. The White House spokesman said “inflammatory rhetoric” was “not helpful.”
But there was no strong denunciation from the president or secretary of state, no indication that they have emphatically told Palestinian leaders to cut it out. No sense of outrage, as there had been with the announcement of new Israeli construction in disputed east Jerusalem.
PALESTINIANS ARE not the only ones guilty of incitement, although on the Israeli side it is not as pervasive, nor is it government -sanctioned. Settler violence, housing demolitions, a double standard of justice and incendiary rhetoric by prominent political leaders tarnish Israel’s image and inflame its Arab citizens and neighbors.
The most pernicious form of incitement has been the Palestinian campaign to delegitimize Israel and deny any Jewish claim to the land. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the AIPAC audience, “The connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel… and Jerusalem cannot be denied.”
Yet that is exactly what the Palestinians have been trying to do for years.
Ironically, they accuse Israel of planning to build a Third Temple, while denying the first two ever existed. Most notorious was Yasser Arafat, who told president Bill Clinton there never was a temple on the Temple Mount. That infuriated Clinton and led then-prime minister Ehud Barak to sarcastically ask Arafat, “Where do you think Jesus drove the money lenders from? The mosque?”
Jesus, by the way, according to the Palestinian revisionists, was not Jewish but Palestinian. Wait till his mother hears that one.
Jerusalem dates back 3,000 years in Jewish history, and next week the Passover Seders around the world will conclude with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem.” Jerusalem is mentioned repeatedly in the Old Testament but not once in the Koran. A key factor in President Barack Obama’s low standing among Israelis is the impression that he has been one-sided with his intense pressure on Israel to freeze settlements and almost indifferent to Palestinian provocations.
For the most part, administration calls to end incitement have been brief, tepid and rare compared to the focus on settlements – and Palestinians have ignored them with impunity.
A settlement freeze is an important confidence- building measure. So is an end to incitement. It is the quickest and easiest thing Palestinians can do to help create a more conducive environment for peace.
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As the world faces monumental challenges, I know that America and Israel will face them together. We stand together because we are fired by the same ideals and inspired by the same dreams – the dreams of achieving prosperity, security and peace for all. Now, this dream seemed an impossibility to most Jews a century ago.
This month, my father celebrated his one-hundredth birthday. That’s not his only achievement, but when he was born, the Czars ruled Russia, the British Empire spanned the globe and the Ottoman Empire ruled the Middle East. During his lifetime, all three of these empires fell. Others rose and fell, and the Jewish destiny, the pendulum of Jewish faith, swung from despair to a new hope and a new beginning – the rebirth of the Jewish state.
See, for the first time in two thousand years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack. And before that – understand what transformation this was –before that, in our dispersion, we were powerless, absolutely powerless to defend ourselves against an unremitting barrage of savagery from the bloodletting in the Middle Ages, to the expulsion of the Jews from England, and then from Spain and then from Portugal, to the wholesale slaughter of Jews in the Ukraine, to the pogroms in Russia, culminating in the greatest horror of all – the Holocaust.
The founding of Israel didn’t stop the attack on the Jews. But it merely – well it’s more than merely – it gave the Jews the power to defend themselves against those attacks.
I want to tell you about the day when I realized what this transformation was. It was the day I met Shlomit Vilmosh over forty years ago. I was nineteen years old. I served with her son, with Shlomit’s son, Haim, in the same elite military unit. And one dark night during a battle in 1969, Haim was killed in a burst of gunfire. At his funeral, in a kibbutz in the Galilee, I learned something. I discovered that Haim had been born shortly after his mother and father had been freed from the death camps of Europe. If Haim had been born two years earlier, this daring young Israeli officer would have been tossed into the ovens like a million and a half other Jewish children. Haim’s mother Shlomit told me that though she was in great anguish, she was proud. At least, she told me – and this is something I’ll never forget as long as I live – at least she said, my son fell wearing the uniform of a Jewish soldier defending the Jewish state.
And time and again Israel’s soldiers were forced to repel the attacks of much larger enemies committed to our destruction. Yet when Egypt and Jordan realized that we could not be defeated in battle, they embraced the path of peace and we value the peace treaties we’ve achieved with both countries. Yet there are those who continue the assault against the Jewish state; there are those who openly call for our destruction. They seek to achieve this goal through terrorism, missile attacks and most recently by developing atomic weapons.
It’s instructive that the ingathering of the Jews to Israel doesn’t deter them. In fact, it whets their appetite. Iran’s rulers say “Israel is a one bomb country.” The head of Hezbollah says: “If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”
These are unpleasant facts, but they are the facts. The greatest threat to any living organism, to any nation, is not to recognize danger in time – not to recognize the facts.
Seventy-five years ago, many leaders around the world put their heads in the sand. Untold millions died in the war that followed. Ultimately, two of history’s greatest leaders helped turn the tide. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill helped save the world. Indeed they deserve every applause. They helped save the world, but they were too late to save six million of my own people, the Jewish people. The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself.
Today, an unprecedented threat to humanity looms large. A radical Iranian regime armed with nuclear weapons could bring an end to the era of nuclear peace that the world has enjoyed for the last 65 years. Such a regime could provide nuclear weapons to terrorists. It might even be tempted to use them and our world would never be the same. Iran’s brazen bid to develop nuclear weapons is certainly first and foremost a threat to my country, to Israel, but it’s a threat to the entire region; it’s a threat to the entire world. Israel thus expects the international community to act swiftly and to act decisively to thwart this danger. But we always reserve the right of self-defense.
And my friends, we have to defend ourselves also against lies and against vilification. Throughout our history, the slanders against the Jewish people always preceded physical attacks against us. In fact they were used to justify these attacks. The Jews were called the well-poisoners of mankind; the fomenters of instability; the source of all evil under the sun. Unfortunately, as in the case of the physical attacks, these libelous attacks against the Jews did not stop with the creation of Israel. It’s true that for a time, overt anti-Semitism was held in check by the shame and the shock of the Holocaust. But only for a time.
In recent decades the hatred of the Jews has reemerged with increasing force, but with an insidious twist. It is not merely directed at the Jewish people. It’s increasingly directed at the Jewish state. And in its most pernicious form, it argues that if only Israel did not exist, many of the world’s problems would go away.
Now, I want to be clear. This doesn’t mean that Israel is above criticism. Of course not. Israel, like any democracy, has its imperfections but we strive to correct them through open debate and through scrutiny. Israel has independent courts, the rule of law, a free press and a vigorous parliamentary debate. Believe me, it’s very vigorous. Well you’ve just gone through a week of healthcare voting. In Israel, every week is healthcare week. It doesn’t stop.
I know that in this city members of Congress refer to one another as my distinguished colleague from Wisconsin, the distinguished Senator from California. In Israel, members of Knesset don’t speak of their distinguished colleagues from Be’er Sheva or Kiryat Shmona. Because in Israel, self-criticism is a way of life, and we also accept that criticism is part and parcel of the conduct of international affairs. But Israel should be judged by the same standards applied to all nations and to other democracies. Sometimes I think there’s a triple standard: one standard for the dictatorships, a second standard for the democracies and a third standard is the standard for Israel. We should be judged by one standard and allegations made against the State of Israel must be grounded in facts. One allegation that is not grounded in fact is the attempt to describe the Jews as foreign colonialists in their own homeland. This is one of the great lies of modern times.
In my office, I have a signet ring that was loaned to me by Israel’s Department of Antiquities This ring was found next to the Western wall, but it dates back 2,800 years ago, two hundred years after King David declared Jerusalem as our people’s capital. This ring is a seal of a Jewish official, and his name is inscribed on it in Hebrew. The name is: Netanyahu. Netanyahu Ben-Yoash. That’s my last name. My first name, Benjamin, dates back 1,000 years earlier to Benjamin, the son of Jacob. One of Benjamin’s brothers was named Shimon, which also happens to be the first name of my good friend, Shimon Peres, the President of Israel. Nearly 4,000 years ago, Benjamin, Shimon and their ten brothers roamed the hills of Judea.
The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied. The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied. The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It’s our capital.
In Jerusalem, my government has maintained the policies of every single Israeli government since 1967, including those led by Golda Meir, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin. Today, nearly a quarter of a million Jews, that’s almost half the city’s Jewish population, live in neighborhoods that are just beyond the 1949 armistice lines. All these neighborhoods are within five-minutes from the Knesset. They are an integral and inextricable part of modern Jerusalem. Everyone knows – everyone: Americans, Europeans, Israelis certainly, Palestinians – everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement and therefore, building in them no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.
And I want to say one more thing about our policies in Jerusalem. Nothing is rarer in the Middle East than tolerance for the beliefs of others. But it’s only under Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem that religious freedom for all faiths has been guaranteed – and we shall continue to guarantee that religious freedom for everyone.
While we cherish our homeland, we also recognize that Palestinians live there as well. We don’t want to govern them. We don’t want to rule them. We want them as our neighbors, living freely in security, dignity and peace. Yet Israel is unjustly accused of not wanting peace with the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth. My government has consistently shown its commitment to peace in both word and deed.
From day one, I called on the Palestinian Authority to begin peace negotiations without delay and I make that same call today. President Abbas, come and negotiate peace. That’s so elementary and so obvious. You’d think we don’t have to say it because leaders who truly want peace should be able to sit face-to-face with each other and negotiate the peace. You can’t successfully end a negotiation for peace if you don’t begin it, so I call on the Palestinian leadership, come and negotiate peace.
Of course, the United States can help the parties resolve their problems but it cannot solve the problems for the parties. Peace cannot be imposed from the outside. It can only come through direct negotiations in which we develop mutual trust – that mutual trust that is necessary to forge a common future.
Last year, I spoke of a vision of peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state. Just as the Palestinians expect Israel to recognize a Palestinian state, we expect the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state. My government has removed hundreds of roadblocks, barriers, earth ramps, checkpoints and this has facilitated tremendous Palestinian movement. As a result, we have helped spur, actually an incredible boom given today’s world economy, an incredible boom in the Palestinian economy. You have coffee shops, restaurants, businesses, shopping malls, even multiplex studios. Just go to Ramallah and Jenin and that has not come about out of sheer error. We have made it possible. You cannot do this if you cannot move trucks, goods, people, customers. That has been our policy. And we added to that an unprecedented moratorium on new Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria. This is what my government has done for peace.
I ask you, what has the Palestinian Authority done for peace? You can judge for yourself. They have placed preconditions on peace talks, waged a relentless international campaign to undermine Israel’s legitimacy, and promoted the notorious Goldstone report that falsely accuses Israel of war crimes. In fact, they’re doing that right now at the UN, at the grotesquely misnamed UN Human Rights Commission. And I want to use this opportunity to thank President Obama and the Congress of the United States for their efforts to thwart this libel, and I ask for the continued effort this week to fight this lie.
Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority has also continued the unabated incitement against Israel in their state-controlled media, in their schools and other institutions that come directly under their control and some others too. A few days ago, in a public square near Ramallah, the Palestinians named this square after a terrorist who murdered 38 innocent Israeli civilians including 13 children, including an American citizen, the photographer, Gail Rubin. They named a public square after this murderer and the Palestinian Authority did nothing.
Peace requires reciprocity. It cannot be a one-way street in which Israel makes all the concessions and the Palestinian Authority makes none. That has got to change. Israel stands ready to make the compromises necessary for peace, but we expect the Palestinians to compromise as well – to do their part.
But there’s one thing I’ll never compromise on and that one thing is Israel’s security. Let me express to you the difficulty of trying to explain Israel’s security predicament to the citizens of the United States – a country that is 500 times the size of Israel. I thought how I could best bring it home. I ask you to imagine that the territory of the United States was compressed down to the size of New Jersey. You squeeze the United States down to the size of New Jersey and next you put on New Jersey’s northern border an Iranian terror proxy called Hezbollah which fires 6,000 rockets into that small state. Then imagine that this terror proxy amasses another 50,000 rockets to fire at you. I’m not finished. You take New Jersey’s southern border and you put another Iranian terror proxy on it and you call it Hamas. And it too fires 6,000 rockets into your territory while smuggling even more lethal weapons into its territory.
You think you’d feel a little vulnerable? You think you’d expect some understanding from the international community when you have to defend yourselves? I think any fair-minded person would recognize that we face security problems and challenges unlike any other nation on earth. And therefore, a peace agreement with the Palestinians must have effective security arrangements on the ground – not just on a piece of paper – on the ground.
We must make sure that what happened in Lebanon and Gaza doesn’t happen again in the West Bank. Let me explain what our main security problem with Lebanon is. It’s not Israel’s border with Lebanon – it’s Lebanon’s forced border with Syria through which Iran and Syria smuggle thousands and thousands of rockets and missiles to Hezbollah. And our main security problem with Gaza is not Israel’s border with Gaza – it’s Gaza’s border with Egypt under which there’s about a thousand tunnels dug through which Hamas smuggles weapons to fire at us.
My friends, experience has shown that only an Israeli presence on the ground can prevent or limit weapons smuggling. And this is why a peace agreement with the Palestinians must include an Israeli presence in the eastern border of a future Palestinian state. If peace with the Palestinians proves its durability over time, we can review security arrangements.
We are prepared to take risks for peace, but we will not be reckless with the lives of our citizens and the life of the one and only Jewish state.
The people of Israel want a future in which our children no longer experience the horrors of war. We want a future in which Israel realizes its full great potential as a global center of technology, anchored in its values, living in peace with all its neighbors. I envision an Israel that can dedicate even more of its scientific and creative energies to help solve some of the great problems of the day, foremost of which is finding a clean and affordable substitute for gasoline. And when we find that alternative, we will stop transferring hundreds of billions of dollars to regimes which support terror worldwide.
I am confident that in pursuing these goals, we have the enduring friendship of the United States of America, the greatest nation on earth. The American people have always shown their courage, their generosity, their decency. From one President to the next, from one Congress to the next, America’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unwavering. In the last year, President Obama and the U.S. Congress have given meaning to that commitment by providing Israel with military assistance, by enabling joint military exercises and by working on joint missile defense.
So too, Israel has been a staunch and steadfast ally of the United States. As Vice President Biden has said, America has no better friend in the community of nations than Israel. I say that too. For decades, Israel served as a bulwark against Soviet expansionism. Today it is helping America stem the tide of militant Islam. Israel shares with America everything and I mean everything that we know about fighting a new kind of enemy. We share intelligence. We cooperate in so many ways, countless ways which I’m not at liberty to divulge. This cooperation is important for us, for Israel, but it is also helping save American lives.
Our soldiers and your soldiers fight against fanatic enemies that loathe our common values. In the eyes of these fanatics, we are you and you are us. To them, the only difference is that you are big and we are small. You see, you are the Great Satan and we are the Small Satan. There’s an important point here. This fanaticism’s hatred of Western civilization predates the establishment of modern Israel by a thousand years. Militant Islam does not hate the West because of Israel. It hates Israel because of the West – because it sees Israel as an outpost of freedom and democracy that prevents them from overrunning the Middle East. That is why when Israel stands against its enemies – it stands against America’s enemies.
President Harry Truman, the first leader to recognize Israel, has this to say, “I have faith in Israel and I believe that it has a glorious future – not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”
We are gathered here today because we believe in these common ideals of our great civilization. And because of these ideals, I am certain that Israel and America will always stand together.