Monday, March 22, 2010

Washington's Kumbaya Moment: AIPAC

With the Health Care debate essentially behind us, all attention in Washington will now turn to the AIPAC Policy Conference, and suddenly last week's combatants will join arm in arm. Yes, the lion will lie down with the lamb, Boehner with Pelosi, Obama with Bibi and all will be right with the world. Everyone loves Israel - at least at AIPAC. But under the surface and between the lines, some important things will be discussed.

Here is Today's Report from AIPAC on the goings on at "Policy Conference" (it's important enough to remove the "the" - NEVER call it "The Policy Conference."

The theme this year is "Israel: telling the story." It's more than about getting the word out regarding Israel's accomplishments - it also ties into the major theme of the upcoming Passover holiday - connecting people (in this case Jews AND non Jews) to the miraculous story of Israel's birth and growth. Just as we relive the Exodus every year at our Seders - and in fact every day of our lives as Jews - so does the fact of Israel, along with its myriad accomplishments, resonate within us all the time.

Here is the AIPAC account of Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Gala Banquet on Monday night. Speaking in front of 7,500 delegates, more than half of Congress and hundreds of ambassadors, cabinet officials and invited guests, Netanyahu said that the United States and Israel "stand together because we are fired by the same ideals and inspired by the same dream—the dream of achieving security, prosperity and peace."

The prime minister reiterated his call for the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table for direct negotiations. Netanyahu also challenged those who question Israel's desire for peace, pointing to numerous steps his government has taken, such as removing "hundreds of roadblocks, barriers and checkpoints in the West Bank." He also pointed to his country's unprecedented construction freeze in Judea and Samaria.

Regarding the construction in Jerusalem that led to the recent rise in tensions between the Obama administration and Israel, Netanyahu underscored that "everyone knows that these neighborhoods will be part of Israel in any peace settlement. Therefore, building them in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution."

The prime minister also provided historical context to Israel's right to build Jerusalem. "The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied. "The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 year ago and the Jewish people are building Jerusalem today. Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is our capital."

In addition, Netanyahu spoke about the threat of a nuclear Iran, explaining the risks the world would face if the Islamic Republic had an atomic bomb. "Such a regime could provide nuclear weapons to terrorists and might even be tempted to use them itself," he said. "Israel expects the international community to act swiftly and decisively to thwart this danger, but we will always reserve the right to defend ourselves."

The prime minister also spoke of his vision for the future of Israel. "The people of Israel want a future in which our children no longer experience the horrors of war," Netanyahu said. He concluded by stating that the relationship between the United States and Israel is based on shared values, common principles and the aspiration of living in peace. "We are gathered here today because we believe in those ideals. And because of those ideals, I am certain that Israel and America will always stand together."

Click or paste to see hVideos of Speeches and to read the transcripts of the following:

Israel Around the World

Kadima Party Chair Tzipi Livni

Israel's Ethical Defense

Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA)
March 22, 2010
"Iran must be dealt with firmly, with real sanctions—that have real teeth. The message should be clear, if you deal with Iran you are not welcome to deal with the United States."

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
March 22, 2010
"At core there is an unshakeable, unbreakable, unmovable bond between Israel and the United States."

The Honorable Jim Langevin (D-RI)
March 22, 2010

Mr. Howard Kohr
March 22, 2010
"This year, we need to focus on this issue in a new way — a way in which we, the pro-Israel community in America, go on the offense in demanding fair treatment for Israel."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
March 22, 2010
"Our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid."

Professor Alan Dershowitz
March 21, 2010
"No country has contributed so much to the world in a mere 61 years."

Col. Richard Kemp, CBE
March 22, 2010
"Israel follows the rules of engagement and int'l law. Insurgents exploit this."

Mr. Lee Rosenberg
March 21, 2010
"No country has contributed so much to the world in a mere 61 years."

Foreign Policy Roundtable
March 21, 2010
"The Israeli Defense Forces risk their lives to avoid civilian causalities." — Sen Evan Bayh (D-IN)

Innovation Nation Roundtable
March 21, 2010
Meir Brand, Dr. Daniel Zajfman and Dan Senor discuss how Israel has emerged as a leading innovator and technological beacon.

Student Moment
March 21, 2010
"We recognize that this is work for the long haul—and we have pledged never to grow weary—never to give up, because far too much is at stake."

The Honorable Shlomo Molla
March 21, 2010
"The story of our journey to Eretz Yisrael on the way to fulfilling the Zionist dream is interwoven with heroic stories and difficulties that did not end even after arriving in Israel."

Here is Sunday night's summary from JTA's Ami Eden:

Lee Rosenberg, AIPAC's new president, received a standing ovation when he rebuked the White House, insisting that "allies should work out their differences privately" (video or transcript).

David Victor, AIPAC's outgoing president and incoming chairman of the AIPAC board, drew applause when he essentially urged the thousands of attendees to provide Obama administration officials with a warm reception.

Comments from potential presidential contenders Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican.

Monday is the big day, with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton set to speak in the morning and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahulater that night. Our on-the-ground reporting and video team will be there for both speeches, and everything in between.

So be sure to visit the blog throughout the day.

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