Speech by PM Netanyahu, AIPAC 2011
My friends, before I talk about things about Israel, I want to say something
about the scenes on television that I saw today and you have been seeing as
well. When tragedy strikes America, Israel -- Israel feels an immediate
identification. And tragedy has struck America. In recent days floods and
tornadoes have claimed the lives of hundreds of Americans, including today
in Joplin, Missouri. All I can say is, America, we're with you on this day,
on every day.
And that's very evident from the things I just heard from my two close
friends. Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid, you lead the many friends who are here today, the distinguished
senators and congressmen and congresswomen of the United States of America.
I want to greet AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg. Rosy, I learned the other day
that if I take you on, it's not going to be in basketball. It will be in
soccer. And Executive Director Howard Kohr -- Howard, you I'm not going to
take on in anything.
I want to welcome here also the representatives of the government of Israel,
members of Knesset, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jim Cunningham,
Ambassador-designate Dan Shapiro, my beloved wife and the mother of our two
boys, Sara and finally, our terrific ambassador to the United States, a man
who knows a few things about the U.S.-Israel alliance, Michael Oren.
To all our supporters in this great hall and to the millions of supporters
across this great land, the people of Israel thank you. Thank you for your
staunch commitment to Israel's security. Thank you for defending Israel's
right to defend itself. Thank you for standing by Israel as it seeks a
Now, I heard tonight from all the speakers something that you know -- that
Israel is America's indispensable ally. You understand that Israel and
America stand shoulder to shoulder fighting common enemies, protecting
common interests. You know that Israeli innovators help power computers,
fight disease, conserve water, clean the planet. Your support for Israel
flows from the heart.
You see, it's not just what Israel does. It's what Israel is. Now, let me
explain that. Yesterday I had a great day. They let me out. Sara and I
could actually go for a walk. And I have to congratulate the American
security services. They're a little more generous than ours.
So we walked along the Potomac and we got to visit Washington's majestic
memorials. I read Jefferson's timeless words, "We hold these truths to be
self-evident, that all men are created equal." I read Lincoln's immortal
address, "government of the people, for the people, by the people."
Now, let me tell you why these words resonate so powerfully with me and with
all Israelis -- because they're rooted in ideas first championed by our
people, the Jewish people, the idea that all men are created in God's image,
that no ruler is above the law, that everyone is entitled to justice. These
are revolutionary Jewish ideas, and they were spoken thousands of years
ago - when vast empires ruled the earth, vast slave empires ruled the world.
And the Jews spoke these truths.
Israel is the cradle of our common civilization. It's the crucible of our
common values. And the modern state of Israel was founded precisely on these
eternal values. And this is why Israel's more than 1 million Muslims enjoy
full democratic rights. This is why the only place in the Middle East where
Christians are completely free to practice their faith is the democratic
state of Israel. And this is why Israel, and only Israel, can be trusted to
ensure the freedom for all faiths in our eternal capital, the united city of
My friends, Israel and America have drawn from these deep well springs of
our common values. We forged an enduring friendship not merely between our
governments, but between our peoples. Support for Israel doesn't divide
America. It unites America. It unites the old and the young, liberals and
conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. And, yes, Joe Lieberman, it even
unites independents. I want to take this opportunity to salute one of the
great senators in my lifetime, a man who's given unbelievable service to his
country, America, and has been unbelievably dedicated to Israel and the
Jewish people. Thank you, Joe Lieberman.
You see, this broad support for Israel in the United States is a tremendous
help and gives tremendous strength to my country. And since Harry Truman,
Israel has looked to American presidents to stand by it as we meet the
unfolding challenges of a changing world.
Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel's
security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented. He
spoke of that commitment in front of AIPAC. He spoke about it in two
speeches heard throughout the Arab world. And he has backed those words
I know these are tough economic times. So I want to thank the president and
Congress for providing Israel with vital assistance so that Israel can
defend itself by itself. I want to thank you all for supporting the Iron
Dome missile defense system. A few weeks ago, Hamas terrorists in Gaza
fired eight rockets at our cities, at Ashkelon and Beer Sheva. Now, these
rockets never reached their targets. Iron Dome intercepted them in midair.
For the first time, a missile defense system worked in combat. That's a
precedent in military history. And I want to say thank you, America.
America and Israel are cooperating in many other ways as well. We're
cooperating in science, in technology, in trade, in investment. See, it's
not only American companies that are investing in Israel. It's Israeli
companies investing in America. In the last decade, Israeli companies have
invested more than $50 billion in the United States. One of those companies
is investing just down the road in Richmond. It's a company that is
building a food factory. Now, here's what it means -- more business, more
jobs, and, yes, more hummus.
Well, it's not just food we're bringing to America. Take medicine. Israel
is advancing cure for multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, cancer. We've
developed mechanical means to make paraplegics walk again. We've placed a
tiny diagnostic camera inside a pill. I have not swallowed it, but I
understand it's quite effective.
And you've just heard of this miraculous bandage developed by an Israeli
company that has helped save Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' life. And I wish
Gabby, a great friend of Israel, Refuah Shlema, a happy, quick, speedy
Israel and America are also cooperating to end the world's worst addiction,
the addiction to oil. This dependence fuels terrorism. It poisons the
planet. So we've launched a 10-year program in Israel to kick the habit, to
find a substitute for gasoline. And if we succeed, we can change the world.
We can change history.
My friends, the American people's support for Israel is reflected in my
invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress tomorrow. Thank you, John
Boehner, for that invitation. I will talk about the great convulsion taking
place in the Middle East, the risks and the opportunities. And I will talk
about the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. And I will also outline a vision
for a secure Israeli-Palestinian peace. I intend to speak the unvarnished
truth because now, more than ever, what we need is clarity.
And events in our region are finally opening people's eyes to a simple
truth. Events in the region are opening people's eyes to a simple truth:
The problems of the region are not rooted in Israel. The remarkable scenes
we're witnessing in town squares across the Middle East and North Africa are
occurring for a simple reason: People want freedom. They want progress.
They want a better life.
For many of the peoples of the region, the 20th century skipped them by.
And now 21st century technology is telling them what they missed out on.
You remember that desperate food vendor in Tunis? Why did he set himself on
fire? Not because of Israel. He set himself on fire because of decades of
indignity, decades of intolerable corruption.
And the millions who poured into the streets of Tehran, Tunis, Cairo, Sanaa,
Benghazi, Damascus, they're not thinking about Israel. They're thinking of
freedom. They're yearning for opportunity. They're yearning for hope for
themselves and for their children. So it's time to stop blaming Israel for
all the region's problems.
Let me stress one thing. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a vital
interest for us. It would be the realization of a powerful and eternal
dream. But it is not a panacea for the endemic problems of the Middle East.
It will not give women in some Arab countries the right to drive a car. It
will not prevent churches from being bombed. It will not keep journalists
out of jail.
What will change this? One word: Democracy - real, genuine democracy. And
by democracy, I don't just mean elections. I mean freedom of speech,
freedom of press, freedom of assembly, the rights for women, for gays, for
minorities, for everyone. What the people of Israel want is for the people
of the Middle East to have what you have in America, what we have in
Israel -- democracy. So it's time to recognize this basic truth. Israel is
not what's wrong with the Middle East. Israel is what's right about the
My friends, we want peace because we know the pain of terror and we know the
agony of war. We want peace because we know the blessings peace could
bring - what it could bring to us and to our Palestinian neighbors. But if
we hope to advance peace with the Palestinians, then it's time that we
admitted another truth. This conflict has raged for nearly a century
because the Palestinians refuse to end it. They refuse to accept the Jewish
Now, this is what this conflict has always been about. There are many
issues linked to this conflict that must be resolved between Israelis and
Palestinians. We can, we must, resolve them. But I repeat: We can only
make peace with the Palestinians if they're prepared to make peace with the
Tomorrow in Congress, I'll describe what a peace between a Palestinian state
and the Jewish state could look like. But I want to assure you of one
thing. It must leave Israel with security. And therefore, Israel cannot
return to the indefensible 1967 lines.
I'll talk about these and other aspects of peace tomorrow in Congress. But
tonight I want to express Israel's gratitude for all you are doing to help
strengthen Israel and the great alliance that Israel has with America. You
helped maintain our qualitative military edge. You backed sanctions against
Iran. You supported genuine peace. You opposed Hamas. And you've joined
President Obama and me in denouncing Hamas and demanding that it release our
captive soldier, Gilad Shalit. That's another outrageous crime of Hamas.
Just imagine keeping a young soldier locked in a dark dungeon for five years
without even a single visit - not a single visit of the Red Cross. I think
that the entire civilized community should join Israel and the United States
and all of us in a simple demand from Hamas: Release Gilad Shalit.
My friends, I spent my high-school years in Philadelphia. I understand it's
developed quite a bit since then. But during those years, when it was a
sleepier town, I used to go visit the Liberty Bell. Now, as Prime Minister
of Israel, I can walk down the street and see an exact replica of that bell
in Jerusalem's Liberty Park. On both bells is the same inscription. It
comes from the Bible, from the book of Leviticus "Proclaim liberty
throughout the land." My dear friends, this is the essence of the great
alliance between our two nations - two peoples bonded in liberty and seeking
freedom and peace for all. That's what this alliance is all about. And you
are part of it. You maintain it.
I thank you on behalf of the people of Israel and the government of Israel.
Thank you for the American-Israel alliance. Thank you, AIPAC.