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The President's Speech to AIPAC

11:06 AM, May 22, 2011 • By DANIEL HALPER
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Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority.  It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.  It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies.  And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. 

That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.  This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives.  So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge. 

You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  Here in the U.S., we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime.  At the United Nations, we’ve secured the most comprehensive international sanctions on the regime, which have been joined by allies and partners around the world.  Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure.  So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.     

Its illicit nuclear program is just one challenge that Iran poses. As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality.  Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and will stand up to groups like Hezbollah who exercise political assassination, and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.

You also see our commitment to Israel’s security in our steadfast opposition to any attempt to de-legitimize the State of Israel.  As I said at the United Nation’s last year, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,” and “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” 

So when the Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew.  In the wake of the Goldstone Report, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself.  When an effort was made to insert the United Nations into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. 

And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security. And it is precisely because of our commitment to Israel’s long-term security that we have worked to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Now, I have said repeatedly that core issues can only be negotiated in direct talks between the parties.  And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace.  No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction.  We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements.  And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.

And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under the current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option. The status quo is unsustainable. That is why, on Thursday, I stated publicly the principles that the United States believes can provide a foundation for negotiations toward an agreement to end the conflict and all claims – the broad outlines of which have been known for many years, and have been the template for discussions between the United States, Israelis, and Palestinians since at least the Clinton Administration.

I know that stating these principles – on the issues of territory and security – generated some controversy over the past few days. I was not entirely surprised. I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with one another. And so I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.

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