Netanyahu, Kerry Address AIPAC

WASHINGTON (Reuters/Hamodia) -
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in Washington, March 4, 2014. Netanyahu urged world powers on Tuesday not to allow Iran to retain the ability to enrich uranium, saying Iran must be stripped of all nuclear technologies with bomb-making potential. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler )
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in Washington, March 4, 2014. Netanyahu urged world powers on Tuesday not to allow Iran to retain the ability to enrich uranium, saying Iran must be stripped of all nuclear technologies with bomb-making potential. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler )

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned the United States and other world powers on Tuesday not to allow Iran to retain the ability to enrich uranium, and urged Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state if they wanted peace.

Addressing the pro-Israel lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) a day after White House talks, Netanyahu avoided any explicit criticism of President Barack Obama but underscored the main differences with him over U.S.-led nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

Netanyahu reiterated his firm opposition to the possibility that a final deal to curb Iran’s disputed nuclear program would allow it to keep some technologies with bomb-making potential.

All of these must be dismantled, Netanyahu said, adding that diplomatic pressure on Tehran should be increased. That’s the reverse of an easing of sanctions offered under an interim accord with the United States and five other world powers in November.

“Unfortunately the leading powers of the world are talking about leaving Iran with the capability to enrich uranium. I hope they don’t do that, because that would be a grave error. It would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power,” he said.

In a pledge that signaled both willingness to strike Iran’s nuclear sites as a last resort and refusal to yield on core peace terms with the Palestinians, Netanyahu told a cheering audience: “I will do whatever I must to defend … Israel.”

Turning to the Palestinians, Netanyahu said he wanted an accord. However, he placed the onus on the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — something they have long refused to do.

“It’s time the Palestinians stop denying history. Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state,” Netanyahu said.

While Netanyahu’s speech broke little new ground, he also used his appearance to condemn pro-Palestinian activists abroad that are campaigning to isolate Israel with a “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movement, or “BDS,” in protest against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

“Everyone should know what the letters BDS really stand for: bigotry, dishonesty and shame,” he said.

Netanyahu predicted “that movement will fail.”

He noted that countries all over the world are eager to do business with Israel. “Beyond our traditional trading partners, countries throughout Asia, Latin America, are flocking to Israel. They want Israeli tech to help transform their country as they did ours. And it’s not just the small countries but the superpowers — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Yahoo. They want to benefit from Israel’s ingenuity. The BDS boycott is not going to stop that, the way the Arab boycott can’t.”

Netanyahu also spoke of his recent visit to an IDF field hospital in the Golan Heights, where victims of the Syrian civil war are being treated.

“Israelis treated nearly a thousand wounded Syrians — men, women and a lot of children. They come to our border fence bleeding and desperate. Often they’re near death.
And on my visit I met two such Syrians, a shell-shocked father and his badly wounded 5-year-old boy.

“A few days earlier the man’s wife and baby daughter were blown to bits by Iranian bombs dropped by Assad’s air force. Now the grieving father was holding his little boy in his arms, and Israeli doctors were struggling to save the boy’s life.

“I heard from them and from the other patients there what all the Syrians who’ve come to be treated in Israel are saying. They all tell the same story. They say, all these years, Assad lied to us. He told us that Iran was our friend and Israel was our enemy. But Iran is killing us, and Israel, Israel is saving us.”

Netanyahu contended that many in the Arab world be willing to make peace with Israel, but that Palestinian intransigence stands in the way.

Secretary of State John Kerry addressed AIPAC on Monday night, where he called for “fear to be defeated” in the effort to reach a Mideast peace agreement.

“It is no mystery what the endgame really looks like,” Kerry said. “We’re at a point in history that requires the United States, as Israel’s closest friend and the world’s preeminent power, to help end this conflict once and for all.

“We’re not doing this on a whim and a prayer,” he said.

“Security — security is what this president is committed to,” Kerry said. “And so too is he committed to using the full force of our diplomacy to resolve the two great questions that most matter to a security for Israel that can never be shaken: preventing a nuclear Iran, and ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This is not about trusting Iran. This is about testing Iran,” Kerry said.

That process might be the “last, best chance to have diplomacy work — and maybe the last chance for some time,” Kerry said. “Those who say strike, and hit, need to go look at what happens after you’ve done that.” Military intervention would probably result in Iran’s withdrawal from the U.N.’s Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, and drive its weapons program underground.

Kerry, who has not responded directly to accusations several weeks ago of inviting an economic boycott of Israel in the event it was blamed for the failure of peace talks, took the opportunity to do so before the 14,000 people in the AIPAC gathering: He denounced the boycotts as “arbitrary,” and said his opposition to them is “unapologetic.”

Reaction to Netanyahu’s speech from the Palestinians on Tuesday was not encouraging.

A senior Palestinian official was quoted by AFP as calling it “an official announcement of a unilateral end to negotiations.”

Fatah central committee member Nabil Shaath alleged that Netanyahu’s comments “contravene all the rules of the peace negotiations agreed with the Americans.”