Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Debbie Wasserman Schultz’

Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference

March 5, 2012 1 comment

Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference

Washington Convention Center

Washington, D.C.

11:10 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everyone.

Rosy, thank you for your kind words.  I have never seen Rosy on the basketball court.  I’ll bet it would be a treat.  (Laughter.)  Rosy, you’ve been a dear friend of mine for a long time and a tireless advocate for the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.  And as you complete your term as President, I salute your leadership and your commitment.  (Applause.)

I want to thank the board of directors.  As always, I’m glad to see my long-time friends in the Chicago delegation.  (Applause.)  I also want to thank the members of Congress who are with us here today, and who will be speaking to you over the next few days.  You’ve worked hard to maintain the partnership between the United States and Israel.  And I especially want to thank my close friend, and leader of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  (Applause.)

I’m glad that my outstanding young Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is in the house.  (Applause.)  I understand that Dan is perfecting his Hebrew on his new assignment, and I appreciate his constant outreach to the Israeli people.  And I’m also pleased that we’re joined by so many Israeli officials, including Ambassador Michael Oren.  (Applause.)  And tomorrow, I’m very much looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation back to the White House.  (Applause.)

Every time I come to AIPAC, I’m especially impressed to see so many young people here.  (Applause.)  You don’t yet get the front seats — I understand.  (Laughter.)  You have to earn that. But students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging deeply in our democratic debate.  You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel.  And you have the opportunity — and the responsibility — to make your own mark on the world.  And for inspiration, you can look to the man who preceded me on this stage, who’s being honored at this conference — my friend, President Shimon Peres.  (Applause.)

Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first world war.  But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people.  (Applause.)  And when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea — toward home.

In his life, he has fought for Israel’s independence, and he has fought for peace and security.  As a member of the Haganah and a member of the Knesset, as a Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, as a Prime Minister and as President — Shimon helped build the nation that thrives today:  the Jewish state of Israel. (Applause.)  But beyond these extraordinary achievements, he has also been a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might — not the other way around.  (Applause.)

Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, “slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom.”  And he has lived those values.  (Applause.)  He has taught us to ask more of ourselves, and to empathize more with our fellow human beings.  I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example.  And I’m proud to announce that later this spring, I will invite Shimon Peres to the White House to present him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

In many ways, this award is a symbol of the broader ties that bind our nations.  The United States and Israel share interests, but we also share those human values that Shimon spoke about:  A commitment to human dignity.  A belief that freedom is a right that is given to all of God’s children.  An experience that shows us that democracy is the one and only form of government that can truly respond to the aspirations of citizens.

America’s Founding Fathers understood this truth, just as Israel’s founding generation did.  President Truman put it well, describing his decision to formally recognize Israel only minutes after it declared independence.  He said, “I had faith in Israel before it was established.  I believe it has a glorious future before it — as not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”

For over six decades, the American people have kept that faith.  Yes, we are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share — in security for our communities, prosperity for our people, the new frontiers of science that can light the world. But ultimately it is our common ideals that provide the true foundation for our relationship.  That is why America’s commitment to Israel has endured under Democratic and Republican Presidents, and congressional leaders of both parties.  (Applause.)  In the United States, our support for Israel is bipartisan, and that is how it should stay.  (Applause.)

AIPAC’s work continually nurtures this bond.  And because of AIPAC’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission, you can expect that over the next several days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship.  But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words.  You can look at my deeds.  Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel.  At every crucial juncture — at every fork in the road — we have been there for Israel.  Every single time.  (Applause.)

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that, “Israel’s security is sacrosanct.  It is non-negotiable.”  That belief has guided my actions as President.  The fact is, my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented.  Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer.  (Applause.)  Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust.  Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year.  (Applause.)  We are investing in new capabilities.  We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology — the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies.  And make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge — because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.  (Applause.)

This isn’t just about numbers on a balance sheet.  As a senator, I spoke to Israeli troops on the Lebanese border.  I visited with families who’ve known the terror of rocket fire in Sderot.  And that’s why, as President, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes and hospitals and schools in that town and in others.  (Applause.)  Now our assistance is expanding Israel’s defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles.  Because no family, no citizen, should live in fear.

And just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we’ve been there through our diplomacy.  When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it.  (Applause.)  When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them.  (Applause.)  When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism.  (Applause.)

When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them.  When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them.  (Applause.)  When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them.  (Applause.)  And whenever an effort is made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them.  (Applause.)  So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.  (Applause.)

Which is why, if during this political season — (laughter) — you hear some questions regarding my administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts.  And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics.  America’s national security is too important.  Israel’s security is too important.  (Applause.)

Of course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but rather my administration’s ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  So let me say this:  I make no apologies for pursuing peace.  Israel’s own leaders understand the necessity of peace.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres — each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state.  I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interest.  (Applause.)

The reality that Israel faces — from shifting demographics, to emerging technologies, to an extremely difficult international environment — demands a resolution of this issue.  And I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values — because of our shared belief in self-determination, and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected.  (Applause.)

Of course, peace is hard to achieve.  There’s a reason why it’s remained elusive for six decades.  The upheaval and uncertainty in Israel’s neighborhood makes it that much harder — from the horrific violence raging in Syria, to the transition in Egypt.  And the division within the Palestinian leadership makes it harder still — most notably, with Hamas’s continued rejection of Israel’s very right to exist.

But as hard as it may be, we should not, and cannot, give in to cynicism or despair.  The changes taking place in the region make peace more important, not less.  And I’ve made it clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met.  (Applause.)  That’s why we continue to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel, and will continue to support the peace treaty with Egypt.  That’s why — just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace — we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, and reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements.  (Applause.)  And that is why my administration has consistently rejected any efforts to short-cut negotiations or impose an agreement on the parties.  (Applause.)

As Rosy noted, last year, I stood before you and pledged that, “the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations.”  As you know, that pledge has been kept.  (Applause.)  Last September, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed that any lasting peace must acknowledge the fundamental legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns.  I said that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, our friendship with Israel is enduring, and that Israel must be recognized.  No American President has made such a clear statement about our support for Israel at the United Nations at such a difficult time.  People usually give those speeches before audiences like this one — not before the General Assembly.  (Applause.)

And I must say, there was not a lot of applause.  (Laughter.)  But it was the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  And as a result, today there is no doubt — anywhere in the world — that the United States will insist upon Israel’s security and legitimacy.  (Applause.)  That will be true as we continue our efforts to pursue — in the pursuit of peace.  And that will be true when it comes to the issue that is such a focus for all of us today:  Iran’s nuclear program — a threat that has the potential to bring together the worst rhetoric about Israel’s destruction with the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand:  No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.  (Applause.)  And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and all of Israel’s leaders.

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests.  But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States.  (Applause.)

Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build.  There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization.  It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions.  It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

And that is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people, and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  And that is what we have done.  (Applause.)

When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters.  Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to thousands, without facing broad pushback from the world.  In the region, Iran was ascendant — increasingly popular, and extending its reach.  In other words, the Iranian leadership was united and on the move, and the international community was divided about how to go forward.

And so from my very first months in office, we put forward a very clear choice to the Iranian regime:  a path that would allow them to rejoin the community of nations if they meet their international obligations, or a path that leads to an escalating series of consequences if they don’t.  In fact, our policy of engagement — quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime — allowed us to rally the international community as never before, to expose Iran’s intransigence, and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.

Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before.  Some of you will recall, people predicted that Russia and China wouldn’t join us to move toward pressure.  They did.  And in 2010 the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly supported a comprehensive sanctions effort.  Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime.  They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011.  Many questioned whether we could hold our coalition together as we moved against Iran’s Central Bank and oil exports.  But our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere are joining us.  And in 2012, the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions.

That is where we are today — because of our work.  Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure.  And by the way, the Arab Spring has only increased these trends, as the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is exposed, and its ally — the Assad regime — is crumbling.

Of course, so long as Iran fails to meet its obligations, this problem remains unresolved.  The effective implementation of our policy is not enough — we must accomplish our objective.  (Applause.)  And in that effort, I firmly believe that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy — backed by pressure — to succeed.

The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program.  Now, the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists.  Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July — thanks to our diplomatic coordination — a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold.  (Applause.)  Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision.  They can choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end.

And given their history, there are, of course, no guarantees that the Iranian regime will make the right choice.  But both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved diplomatically.  After all, the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons.  That’s what history tells us.

Moreover, as President and Commander-in-Chief, I have a deeply held preference for peace over war.  (Applause.)  I have sent men and women into harm’s way.  I’ve seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who’ve come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don’t make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those moments as the most searing of my presidency.  And for this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when the time and circumstances demand it.  And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.

We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically.  Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States — (applause) — just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.  (Applause.)

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.  (Applause.)  That includes all elements of American power:  A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.  (Applause.)

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.  (Applause.)

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world.  Already, there is too much loose talk of war.  Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program.  For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.  Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built.  Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt:  Speak softly; carry a big stick.  (Applause.)  And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve, and that our coordination with Israel will continue.

These are challenging times.  But we’ve been through challenging times before, and the United States and Israel have come through them together.  Because of our cooperation, citizens in both our countries have benefited from the bonds that bring us together.  I’m proud to be one of those people.  In the past, I’ve shared in this forum just why those bonds are so personal for me:  the stories of a great uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald, to my memories of returning there with Elie Wiesel; from sharing books with President Peres to sharing seders with my young staff in a tradition that started on the campaign trail and continues in the White House; from the countless friends I know in this room to the concept of tikkun olam that has enriched and guided my life.  (Applause.)

As Harry Truman understood, Israel’s story is one of hope. We may not agree on every single issue — no two nations do, and our democracies contain a vibrant diversity of views.  But we agree on the big things — the things that matter.  And together, we are working to build a better world — one where our people can live free from fear; one where peace is founded upon justice; one where our children can know a future that is more hopeful than the present.

There is no shortage of speeches on the friendship between the United States and Israel.  But I’m also mindful of the proverb, “A man is judged by his deeds, not his words.”  So if you want to know where my heart lies, look no further than what I have done — to stand up for Israel; to secure both of our countries; and to see that the rough waters of our time lead to a peaceful and prosperous shore.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the people of Israel.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Remarks by the President at the AIPAC Policy Conference 2011

May 22, 2011 Leave a comment

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

________________________________________________________________

For Immediate Release                               May 22, 2011

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT

AT THE AIPAC POLICY CONFERENCE 2011

Walter E. Washington Convention Center

Washington, D.C.

10:56 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Good morning.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you.

What a remarkable, remarkable crowd.  Thank you, Rosy, for your very kind introduction.  I did not know you played basketball.  (Laughter.)  I will take your word for it.  (Laughter.)  Rosy, thank you for your many years of friendship.  Back in Chicago, when I was just getting started in national politics, I reached out to a lot of people for advice and counsel, and Rosy was one of the very first.  When I made my first visit to Israel, after entering the Senate, Rosy, you were at my side every step of that profound journey through the Holy Land.  So I want to thank you for your enduring friendship, your leadership, and for your warm introduction today.

I also want to thank David Victor, Howard Kohr and all the board of directors.  And let me say that it is wonderful to look out and see so many great friends, including a very large delegation from Chicago.  (Applause.)  Alan Solow, Howard Green.  Thank you all.

I want to thank the members of Congress who are joining you today — who do so much to sustain the bonds between the United States and Israel, including Eric Cantor — (applause) — Steny Hoyer — (applause) — and the tireless leader I was proud to appoint as the new chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  (Applause.)

We’re joined by Israel’s representative to the United States, Ambassador Michael Oren.  (Applause.)  And we’re joined by one of my top advisors on Israel and the Middle East for the past four years and who I know is going to be an outstanding ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.  (Applause.)  Dan has always been a close and trusted advisor and friend, and I know that he will do a terrific job.

And at a time when so many young people around the world are standing up and making their voices heard, I also want to acknowledge all the college students from across the country who are here today.  (Applause.)  No one has a greater stake in the outcome of events that are unfolding today than your generation, and it’s inspiring to see you devote your time and energy to help shape that future.

Now, I’m not here to subject you to a long policy speech.  I gave one on Thursday in which I said that the United States sees the historic changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa as a moment of great challenge, but also a moment of opportunity for greater peace and security for the entire region, including the State of Israel.

On Friday, I was joined at the White House by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we reaffirmed — (applause) — we reaffirmed that fundamental truth that has guided our presidents and prime ministers for more than 60 years — that even while we may at times disagree, as friends sometimes will, the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable — (applause) — and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.  (Applause.)

A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and children can live free from the threat of violence.  It’s not simply because we face common dangers, although there can be no denying that terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons are grave threats to both our nations.

America’s commitment to Israel’s security flows from a deeper place — and that’s the values we share.  As two people who struggled to win our freedom against overwhelming odds, we understand that preserving the security for which our forefathers — and foremothers — fought must be the work of every generation.  As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedoms we cherish must be constantly nurtured.  And as the nation that recognized the State of Israel moments after its independence, we have a profound commitment to its survival as a strong, secure homeland for the Jewish people.  (Applause.)

We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel living in a very tough neighborhood.  I’ve seen it firsthand.  When I touched my hand against the Western Wall and placed my prayer between its ancient stones, I thought of all the centuries that the children of Israel had longed to return to their ancient homeland.  When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map — face of the Earth.

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.  (Applause.)  It’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.  (Applause.)  And that includes additional support –- beyond regular military aid -– for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.  (Applause.)  A powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation — a powerful example of American-Israeli cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved Israeli lives.  So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.  (Applause.)

You also see our commitment to our shared security in our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  Here in the United States, we’ve imposed the toughest sanctions ever on the Iranian regime.  (Applause.)  At the United Nations, under our leadership, 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’re going to keep up the pressure.  So let me be absolutely clear –- we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)

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 we 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.  (Applause.)  As I said at the United Nations 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.”  (Applause.)

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.  (Applause.)  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.  (Applause.)

And so, in both word and deed, we have been unwavering in our support of Israel’s security.  (Applause.)  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.  (Applause.)

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

And yet, no matter how hard it may be to start meaningful negotiations under current circumstances, we must acknowledge that a failure to try is not an option.  The status quo is unsustainable.  And 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, Israel, and the 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.  (Laughter.)  I wasn’t surprised.  I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a President preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy.  I don’t need Rahm to tell me that.  Don’t need Axelrod to tell me that.  But 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.  (Applause.)  So I want to share with you some of what I said to the Prime Minister.

Here are the facts we all must confront.  First, the number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian Territories.  This will make it harder and harder — without a peace deal — to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.

Second, technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself in the absence of a genuine peace.

Third, a new generation of Arabs is reshaping the region.  A just and lasting peace can no longer be forged with one or two Arab leaders.  Going forward, millions of Arab citizens have to see that peace is possible for that peace to be sustained.

And just as the context has changed in the Middle East, so too has it been changing in the international community over the last several years.  There’s a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations.  They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process, or the absence of one, not just in the Arab World — in Latin America, in Asia, and in Europe.  And that impatience is growing, and it’s already manifesting itself in capitals around the world.

And those are the facts.  I firmly believe, and I repeated on Thursday, that peace cannot be imposed on the parties to the conflict.  No vote at the United Nations will ever create an independent Palestinian state.  And the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations or in any international forum.  (Applause.)  Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.  That is my commitment; that is my pledge to all of you.  (Applause.)

Moreover, we know that peace demands a partner –- which is why I said that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Palestinians who do not recognize its right to exist.  (Applause.)  And we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and for their rhetoric.  (Applause.)

But the march to isolate Israel internationally — and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations –- will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.  And for us to have leverage with the Palestinians, to have leverage with the Arab States and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success.  And so, in advance of a five-day trip to Europe in which the Middle East will be a topic of acute interest, I chose to speak about what peace will require.

There was nothing particularly original in my proposal; this basic framework for negotiations has long been the basis for discussions among the parties, including previous U.S. administrations.  Since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday — not what I was reported to have said.

I said that the United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine.  The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps — (applause) — so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself –- by itself -– against any threat.  (Applause.)  Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security.  (Applause.)  And a full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign and non-militarized state.  (Applause.)  And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.  (Applause.)

Now, that is what I said.  And it was my reference to the 1967 lines — with mutually agreed swaps — that received the lion’s share of the attention, including just now.  And since my position has been misrepresented several times, let me reaffirm what “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps” means.

By definition, it means that the parties themselves -– Israelis and Palestinians -– will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.  (Applause.)  That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means.  It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation.  It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.  (Applause.)  It allows the parties themselves to take account of those changes, including the new demographic realities on the ground, and the needs of both sides.  The ultimate goal is two states for two people:  Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people — (applause) — and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people — each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.  (Applause.)

If there is a controversy, then, it’s not based in substance.  What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately.  I’ve done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades to achieve peace.  (Applause.)  The world is moving too fast.  The world is moving too fast.  The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow.  Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.

Now, I know that some of you will disagree with this assessment.  I respect that.  And as fellow Americans and friends of Israel, I know we can have this discussion.

Ultimately, it is the right and the responsibility of the Israeli government to make the hard choices that are necessary to protect a Jewish and democratic state for which so many generations have sacrificed.  (Applause.)  And as a friend of Israel, I’m committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized.  And I will call not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, on the Arab States, and the international community to join us in this effort, because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone.  (Applause.)

But even as we do all that’s necessary to ensure Israel’s security, even as we are clear-eyed about the difficult challenges before us, and even as we pledge to stand by Israel through whatever tough days lie ahead, I hope we do not give up on that vision of peace.  For if history teaches us anything, if the story of Israel teaches us anything, it is that with courage and resolve, progress is possible.  Peace is possible.

The Talmud teaches us that, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”  And that lesson seems especially fitting today.

For so long as there are those across the Middle East and beyond who are standing up for the legitimate rights and freedoms which have been denied by their governments, the United States will never abandon our support for those rights that are universal.

And so long as there are those who long for a better future, we will never abandon our pursuit of a just and lasting peace that ends this conflict with two states living side by side in peace and security.  This is not idealism; it is not naïveté.  It is a hard-headed recognition that a genuine peace is the only path that will ultimately provide for a peaceful Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and a Jewish state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.  (Applause.)  That is my goal, and I look forward to continuing to work with AIPAC to achieve that goal.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless Israel, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

END                11:21 P.M. EDT