The United States and Israel have a “beautiful alliance” resulting from their “shared values,” declared Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, resulting in an “eternal bond” between the two nations.
Speaking to the 18,000 participants at the final session of the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington Tuesday, the prime minister, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and virtually all other speakers at the three-day event, emphasized that Israel does not merely accept help from other countries, but also provides intelligence, technology, and innovation to nations around the world.
U.S. Ambassador David Friedman
“Israel’s a major trading partner with the United States, and its innovations and technologies improve our lives in many ways,” said Ambassador Friedman. “Israel is the world leader in cyber defense — the ever-increasing threat of our generation — and it shares its discoveries and approaches with us in a manner unlike its relationship with any other nation.
“And because of the extraordinary military intelligence coordination between Israel and the United States, Israel keeps us safe, just as we help to keep Israel safe in return.”
Friedman, who will soon become the first U.S. ambassador to work out of the new embassy in Yerushalayim, expressed his pride in and thanks for the Trump administration’s pro-Israel actions during the past year. “It was, to put it mildly, a year of firsts,” said Friedman, from him being the first U.S. ambassador to attend Israel’s Yom Yerushalayim celebration, to President Trump’s visit to the Kosel, recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital, and, finally, announcing the embassy’s move to that city in May, to coincide with Israel’s 70th anniversary.
“Seventy years from Truman to Trump,” said the ambassador. “How blessed we are to be here today.
“Now, the events that I just noted are not just symbolic; they represent a fundamental shift – a sea change, if you will — in the way America relates to its closest ally in the Middle East, the State of Israel.
“Now, we all must acknowledge that the relationship between the United States and Israel has always been special and it has always transcended politics and it must continue to always transcend politics. But I know you will forgive my pride if I do say that I think things are better than ever.”
Ambassador Friedman noted that, when asked their opinion of Israel, many people reply that they are “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” but he insists that is not a “reasonable position.”
Using the phrase “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” said the ambassador, “implies that there are people who are pro-Israel and anti-peace, or even, G-d-forbid, pro-Israel and pro-war. Having served in the country of Israel now for almost a year, I can attest that such people — in anything but the smallest, most minute of numbers — simply do not exist. Pro-Israel and pro-peace is nothing more than a redundancy.
“If you support Israel, then you must, by definition, support it living in peace with its neighbors. Peace is a core Israeli value, it is a core American value, it is the ultimate line of the priestly benediction that Kohanim, of which I am one, bestow upon their congregations each and every day in the Land of Israel: ‘Yisa Hashem Panav eilecha viyasem lecha shalom — may the L-rd lift His divine presence unto you and grant you peace.’
“It is no less than blasphemous to suggest that any Jew or any Christian is against peace, and that’s just not a matter of religious belief.
“Spend a day at the cemetery on Mount Herzl, the equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery here in Virginia. Ask a mother grieving for her son what she is praying for and she will tell you peace. Ask an Israeli hotel owner or a tour operator what they wish for; they will tell you peace. Ask a member of the Knesset whether they would prefer to spend more money on education or hospitals rather than such a disproportionate amount on national defense, and they will tell you, of course they would, if they only had peace.
“Ask a family living on the Gaza periphery if they would rather have their government create a high-speed rail service to Tel Aviv rather than buying more and more Iron Dome batteries, and they would say, ‘We’d love that, if we only had peace.’ Ask each and every parent of a son or a daughter entering the IDF what they pray for, and … they will tell you they pray for peace.
“Everyone living in Israel wants peace, yearns for peace and prays for peace, and it is dangerously misleading to use phrases that suggest otherwise. If there is no peace in the Middle East as we speak — and, regrettably, there is not — I strongly suggest that we blame someone other than Israel for this predicament.”
While “reasonable minds do differ” on many issues related to peace and on how peace can be achieved, “no minds differ on the need or the desire for peace, or, indeed, the blessing that peace will bring. Nor do any minds differ on the sanctity and the preciousness of every human life of every race or religion.
“If you are pro-Israel, these are your values; you don’t need any additional suffix to emphasize the point.”
“The entire Trump Administration is committed to peace,” said the ambassador. “From the president, to the vice president, to Jared Kushner, to Jason Greenblatt, to me — all are assigned to this sacred task. And we’re hard at work and we’re working on a plan, not the plan that’s been described 20 different ways by 20 different sources, all, pardon the expression, fake news — but a real plan for peace. And we’re not giving up.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister Netanyahu began his remarks by noting that while “it is always great to be here … as I told President Trump yesterday, it’s especially great to be in America’s capital now that he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital!”
The prime minister teasingly asked permission from his security guard before eschewing the lectern, choosing instead to walk about the stage during his speech, themed “The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful.”
“The Good” was a presentation, with PowerPoint slides, of Israel’s technological and military advances, benefitting not only Israel but countries across the globe.
“In the last few years, Israel’s incredible intelligence services have foiled dozens of major terrorist attacks across the world in dozens of countries,” said Netanyahu, including uncovering last summer a plot to bring down an airliner bound from Australia to the United Arab Emirates.
“You’re boarding planes when you leave this place,” he told the delegates. “You are safer because of Israeli intelligence. It not only protects Israeli lives, it protects innocent lives around the world.”
“The good news … continues with Israel’s strong economy,” said Netanyahu. “It’s a tremendously strong economy and I’ll tell you, we made it stronger by moving Israel to free-market principles, which unleashed the spark of genius embedded in our people into innovation, entrepreneurship.”
Pointing to the technological revolution, Netanyahu noted that in 2006, the top 10 companies in the world included five energy companies and just one tech company, Microsoft. “A mere 10 years later, 2016, a blink of an eye in historical terms, it’s completely reversed: five IT companies, one energy company left. The true wealth is in innovation.” And all the big tech companies — as well as hundreds of smaller ones — have “major research centers” in Israel.
Moreover, said Netanyahu, Israel has “one-tenth of 1 percent of the world’s population, and we get a whopping 20 percent of global private investment in cyber” security.
Netanyahu also discussed how the tech revolution is transforming not only the technological world, but traditional businesses and needs as well, from drone-guided “precision agriculture” to maximizing efficiency in irrigation and fertilization, to bringing water technology — literally obtaining water out of thin air — to African villages whose residents used to have to travel miles to obtain that most basic need.
Netanyahu said that by bringing this positive change to the world — by visiting all these countries, whose people and leaders, in turn, visit Israel, “we’re coloring the world blue.”
While people speak of Israel’s isolation, Netanyahu said that “pretty soon, the countries that don’t have relations with us, they’re going to be isolated. There are those who talk about boycotting Israel; we’ll boycott them.”
Turning to a more somber note, the prime minister said that while “the good news is very good and is getting better, the bad news is … getting worse.”
Specifically, said Netanyahu, the gravest danger to Israel and to the free world lies in Iran, both its nuclear ambitions and its expanding sphere of influence across the Middle East.
“Darkness is descending on our region. Iran is building an aggressive empire — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, more to come.
“Now Iran is seeking to build permanent military bases in Syria, seeking to create a land bridge from Tehran to Tartus on the Mediterranean, and in addition to moving its army, its air force, its navy to Syria, to be able to attack Israel from closer hand, it’s also seeking to develop, to build precision-guided missile factories in Syria, in Lebanon, against Israel. I will not let that happen. We will not let that happen. We must stop Iran; we will stop Iran.”
Netanyahu said he salutes President Trump “for stating that his administration will not accept Iran’s aggression in the region,” and that he “will never accept a nuclear-armed Iran.”
“And the president has also made it clear that if the fatal flaws of the nuclear deal are not fixed, he will walk away from the deal and restore sanctions. Israel will be right there by America’s side and let me tell you, so will other countries in the region.
“As we counter Iran’s aggression, we should always remember the brave people of Iran: their suffering, their hopes, their courage. Women are jailed for removing their hijabs; students are tortured and shocked for advocating freedom. We stand with those in Iran who stand for freedom.”
Netanyahu noted that as Israel works with other countries — including Sunni Muslim countries — to stop Iran’s terror advances, it gains friends, “because most of the states in our region — they know very well, believe me — that Israel is not their enemy, but their indispensable ally in confronting our common challenges and seizing our common opportunities.
“This is true for Egypt and Jordan, Israel’s longtime peace partners, but it’s also true for many other Arab countries in the Middle East. Israel remains committed to achieving peace with all our neighbors, including the Palestinians.”
Briefly addressing the Palestinian conflict and prospects for peace, the Israeli prime minister placed the onus squarely on the shoulders of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
“To get peace, President Abbas has to embrace peace and to stop supporting terror,” declared Netanyahu, noting that the PA pays $350 million annually — nearly 10 percent of its total budget — “to terrorists and their families.”
“I have a message for President Abbas: Stop paying terrorists. Because what message does it send to Palestinian children? It says, ‘Murder Jews and get rich.’ And I believe President Abbas should find better use for this money, to build roads, schools, hospitals, factories. Build life, don’t pay death. Invest in life, invest in peace.”
Netanyahu said that the U.S.’s expected passage of the Taylor Force Act, which cuts off certain funding to the PA until it stops making these payments, “will make clear to President Abbas that America has zero tolerance for terror.”
Finally, Netanyahu addressed “The Beautiful”: the alliance between Israel and the United States, which he said arises from the countries’ shared values.
“All you have to do is leave this room, walk around a few blocks from here and you see these majestic monuments,” said Netanyahu, and “you can learn from them all about our common values.
“You know, they come from a certain book, a great book, a good book; it’s called the Bible. It said that all of us are created in the image of G-d, and those words inspired Jefferson when he declared, in the Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equal.”
“And that book inspired Abraham Lincoln in the darkest days of America’s Civil War. He found inspiration in the words of our greatest king, King David, when he said that the wounds of a divided America would heal and the judgments of the L-rd are true and righteous, just as the stirring words of the prophet Amos inspired the great Martin Luther King when he stood before the Lincoln Memorial and promised to carry on his struggle until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.
“These values are an inseparable part of America’s story. They’re an inseparable part of Israel’s story. And today, together, we are writing a new chapter in our common story, a story of freedom, of justice, of peace, of hope.
“And it is because we are inspired by the same ideas, because we’re animated by the same values, that America and Israel have forged an eternal bond that can never ever be broken.”