I think there was much to celebrate in Hillary Clinton’s speech to AIPAC. Couched in the usual pandering of the special relationship forever, and sanctions that "bite" Iran, she made a point of breaking the news to American Jews that the "status quo is unsustainable." Yes, she said this had to do with "demographics," a veiled form of racism involving the Palestinian birthrate, but she mentioned the "occupation," and the "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, and the inhuman blockade, and the need for Palestinians to have a "partner" for negotiation.
Most significant, it seemed to me, was her statement that in the ’90s she traveled the world and no one talked about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Now everywhere she goes it’s all that other countries want to talk about, first or second or third on the list of issues. "We cannot escape the impact of mass communications." The internet. You and me…
I don’t have her words in front of me, but the clear implication was that Americans are at risk. If Palestinians are allowed to govern themselves — oh what a radical concept! — it undermines the "appeal" of extremists across the region. Failure to make progress on this issue arms extremists, she said. This is the Petraeus position, of course. Oh now I have a transcript:
[W]e cannot be blind to the political implications of continued conflict. There is a struggle between those in the region who accept peace and coexistence with Israel, and those who reject it and seek only continued violence. The status quo strengthens the rejectionists who claim peace is impossible and weakens those who would accept coexistence. That does not serve Israel’s interests or our own. Those willing to negotiate need to be able to show results for their efforts. And those who preach violence must be proven wrong. All of our regional challenges — confronting the threat posed by Iran, combating violent extremism, promoting democracy and economic opportunity – become harder if rejectionists grow in power and influence.
When you consider that AIPAC’s feverish executive director Howard Kohr had just said that a "reductivist" belief that resolving the Palestinian conflict is essential is simply wrong… When you consider that Alan Dershowitz last night and British Colonel Richard Kemp said that AIPAC must simply dismiss the Petraeus statement that the Palestinian issue endangers Americans… Well, Hillary was bringing cold hard truth to the AIPAC faithful. She went on at some length, in a vigorous, direct manner. By such fits and starts, Americans may at last reckon with the reality of the occupation.
The scene reminded me of Poe’s great story the Masque of the Red Death. They deny the plague in the castle as long as they can. It is outside in the streets. Then they have a masked ball to celebrate their survival and of course the plague is costumed and stalking the company from room to room. Israel’s plague, the crisis it faces through its imposition of apartheid rule — for a second I thought Hillary was going to use that word when she quoted Ehud Barak on the "inexorable mathematics" of the occupation; for Barak has used this word that an American politician cannot– is in the castle. The White House is giving the news to the influential elite. AIPAC president Lee Rosenberg looked stricken as Hillary left the stage.
Oh, below is a transcript, circulated by Peace Now:
SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
REMARKS TO AIPAC
MARCH 22, 2010
Thank you for that welcome. It is wonderful to be back at AIPAC and back with so many good friends. I want to thank Lee Rosenberg for that introduction – and congratulations, Rosy, you’re going to be a terrific president. I also want to thank David Victor, Howard Kohr, Lonny Kaplan, JB Pritzker and all of AIPAC’s directors and staff for your leadership and hard work. I’m also pleased that my friend Congressman Jim Langevin, a great champion for Israel, is here.
To all of AIPAC’s members, thank you for your example of citizen activism. Petitioning your government, expressing your views, speaking up in the arena… this is what democracy is all about. I am particularly pleased to see so many young people here today. You recognize that your future and the future of our country are bound up with the future of Israel. And your engagement today will help make that future more secure.
Given the shared challenges we face, the relationship between the United States and Israel has never been more important. The United States has long recognized that a strong and secure Israel is vital to our own strategic interests. We know that the forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States. And we firmly believe that when we strengthen Israel’s security, we strengthen America’s security.
So from its first day, the Obama administration has worked to promote Israel’s security and long-term success. As Vice President Biden said in Israel, we know that to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. And there will not be. For President Obama, for me, and for this entire administration, our commitment to Israel’s security and Israel’s future is rock solid.
OUR COMMITMENT TO ISRAEL
Our countries and peoples are bound together by our shared values of freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and our common aspirations for a future of peace, security, and prosperity.
Americans honor Israel as a homeland for a people too long oppressed and a democracy that has had to defend itself at every turn. A dream nurtured for generations and made real by men and women who refused to bow to the toughest of odds. In Israel’s story we see our own. We see the story of all people who struggle for freedom and the right to chart their own destinies.
It took President Harry Truman only 11 minutes to recognize the new nation of Israel in 1948. And, ever since, our two countries have stood in solidarity.
Guaranteeing Israel’s security is more than a policy position for me. It is a personal commitment that will never waiver.
Since my first visit to Israel nearly thirty years ago, I have returned many times and made many friends. I have had the privilege of working with some of Israel’s great leaders, and have benefited from their wise counsel. (And I may have sometimes caused them consternation — I don’t think Yitzhak Rabin ever forgave me for banishing him to the White House balcony when he wanted to smoke). Over the years, I have shared your pride in seeing the desert bloom, the economy thrive, and the country flourish. But I have also seen the struggles and the sorrow. I will never forget the heart-rending words of Noa Ben Artzi-Pelossof at her grandfather’s funeral, or the sight of a bombed-out pizzeria in Jerusalem, or the look on the faces of Israeli families who knew a rocket could fall at any moment.
On one of my visits, in 2002, I met a young man named Yochai Porat. At only 26, he was a senior medic with Magen David and oversaw a program to train foreign volunteers as first responders for MDA. I attended one of the program’s graduation ceremonies and I saw the pride in his face as another group of young people set off to do good in the world. Yochai was also a reservist with the IDF. A week after we met, he was killed by a sniper near a roadblock, along with a number of other soldiers and civilians. MDA renamed the overseas volunteer program in Yochai’s memory and it has continued to flourish. In 2005, I visited with Yochai’s family. His parents were committed to continuing Yochai’s support for the MDA and its mission – and so was I. I spent years urging the International Red Cross to admit MDA as a full voting member. And in 2006, we finally succeeded.
As a Senator from New York, I was proud to be a strong voice for Israel in the Congress and around the world. And I am proud that I can continue to be that strong voice as Secretary of State.
Last fall, I stood next to Prime Minister Netanyahu and praised his government’s decision to place a moratorium on new residential construction in the West Bank. And then I praised it again in Marrakesh and Cairo. We also made clear that this was just a first step and, like every administration for decades, underscored that the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. As Israel’s friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed.
In 2008, I told this conference that Barack Obama would be a good friend to Israel as president. That he would have a special appreciation of Israel because of his own personal history. A grandfather who fought the Nazis in Patton’s Army. A great-uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald. President Obama and his family have lived the Diaspora experience. And as he told you himself, he understands that, “there is always a homeland at the center of our story.” As a Senator, he visited Israel and met families whose houses were destroyed by rockets. And as President he has supported Israel in word and deed.
Under President Obama’s leadership, we have reinvigorated defense consultations, redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, and provided nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. In fact, that assistance increased in 2010 and we have requested another increase for 2011. More than 1,000 U.S. troops participated in Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defense exercises last fall, the largest such drill to date. And President Obama has made achieving peace and recognized borders for Israel a top administration priority.
The United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy. We led the boycott of the Durban Conference and repeatedly voted against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. This administration will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself.
For Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Elements in Iran’s government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran’s president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, and threatens to destroy Israel. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans and Israelis alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against its own people. Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; and absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street. The Iranian leadership is denying its people rights that are universal to all human beings — including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution.
In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. Unacceptable to the United States. Unacceptable to Israel. And unacceptable to the region and the international community.
So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
For most of the past decade, the United States declined to engage with Iran. And Iran grew more, not less, dangerous. It built thousands of centrifuges and spurned the international community. But it faced few consequences.
President Obama has been trying a different course designed to present Iran’s leaders with a clear choice. We have made extensive efforts to reengage with Iran, both through direct communication and working with other partners multilaterally, to send an unmistakable message: uphold your international obligations and reap the benefits of normal relations, or face increased isolation and the painful consequences.
We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran’s leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses. The world has seen that Iran, and not the United States, is responsible for the impasse. With secret nuclear facilities, increasing violations of its obligations under the nonproliferation regime, and unjustified expansion of its enrichment activities, more and more nations are expressing deep concerns about Iran’s intentions. There is growing international consensus on taking steps to pressure Iran’s leaders to change course. Europe is in agreement. Russia has moved in this direction. And although there is still work to be done, China has said it supports the dual track approach of applying pressure if engagement does not produce results. This stronger consensus has also led to increased cooperation on stopping arms shipments and financial transactions that aid terrorists, threaten Israel, and destabilize the region.
We are working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran’s leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that the only choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons.
THE STATUS QUO IS UNSUSTAINABLE
Iran is not the only threat on the horizon. Israel today is confronting some of the toughest challenges in her history. The conflict with the Palestinians and with Israel’s Arab neighbors is an obstacle to prosperity and opportunity for Israelis, Palestinians, and people across the region. And it threatens Israel’s long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state.
The status quo is unsustainable for all sides. It promises only more violence and unrealized aspirations. Staying on this course means continuing a conflict that carries tragic human costs. Israeli and Palestinian children alike deserve to grow up free from fear and to have the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential.
There is another path. A path that leads toward security and prosperity for all the people of the region. It will require all parties – including Israel – to make difficult but necessary choices.
Both sides must confront the reality that the status quo of the last decade has not produced long-term security or served the interests of Israelis, Palestinians, or the people of the region. Nor has it served the interests of the United States. It is true that heightened security measures have reduced the number of suicide bombings and given some in Israel the hope that the status quo could be sustained. But the dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology make this impossible.
First, we cannot ignore the long-term population trends that result from Israeli occupation. As Defense Minister Barak and others have observed, the inexorable mathematics of demography are hastening the hour at which Israelis may have to choose between preserving their democracy and staying true to the dream of a Jewish homeland. Given this reality, a two-state solution is the only viable path for Israel to remain both a democracy and a Jewish state.
Second, we cannot be blind to the political implications of continued conflict. There is a struggle between those in the region who accept peace and coexistence with Israel, and those who reject it and seek only continued violence. The status quo strengthens the rejectionists who claim peace is impossible and weakens those who would accept coexistence. That does not serve Israel’s interests or our own. Those willing to negotiate need to be able to show results for their efforts. And those who preach violence must be proven wrong. All of our regional challenges — confronting the threat posed by Iran, combating violent extremism, promoting democracy and economic opportunity – become harder if rejectionists grow in power and influence.
Conversely, a two state solution would allow Israel’s contributions to the world, and to our greater humanity, to get the recognition they deserve; would allow the Palestinians to realize their own legitimate aspirations; and would undermine the appeal of extremism across the region.
Finally, we must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel’s security. For six decades, Israelis have guarded their borders vigilantly. But advances in rocket technology mean that Israeli families are now at risk far from those borders. Despite efforts at containment, rockets with better guidance systems, longer range, and more destructive power are spreading across the region. Hizbollah has amassed tens of thousands of rockets on Israel’s northern border. Hamas has a substantial number in Gaza. And even if some of these are still crude, they all pose a serious danger, as we saw last week.
Our message to Hamas is clear: renounce violence, recognize Israel, and abide by previous signed agreements. And I will repeat today what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and reunited with his family.
Unfortunately, neither military action nor restricting access into and out of Gaza has significantly stemmed the flow of rockets to Hamas. They appear content to add to their stockpile and grow rich off the tunnel trade, while the people living in Gaza fall deeper into poverty and despair. This path is not sustainable for either Israelis or Palestinians.
Behind these terrorist organizations and their rockets, we see the destabilizing influence of Iran. Reaching a two-state solution will not end all these threats, but failure to do so gives our extremist foes a pretext to spread violence, instability, and hatred.
In the face of these unforgiving dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology, it becomes impossible to entrust our hopes for Israel’s future in today’s status quo. These challenges cannot be ignored or wished away. Only by choosing a new path can the Israelis, Palestinians, and all the people of the region ensure their children inherit the future of opportunity and security they deserve.
A COMPREHENSIVE PEACE
The way forward is clear: two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security, with peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, and normal relations between Israel and all the Arab states. A comprehensive peace that is real and not a slogan, that is rooted in genuine recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and that offers the best way to ensure Israel’s enduring survival and well-being. And, it is a goal that the Obama administration is determined to achieve.
George Mitchell has worked tirelessly with the parties to prepare the ground for the resumption of direct negotiations, beginning with the proximity talks both sides have accepted. These proximity talks are a hopeful first step, and they should be serious and substantive. Ultimately, of course, it will take direct negotiations to work through all the issues and end the conflict.
The United States stands ready to play an active and sustained role in Israeli-Palestinian talks, and to support the parties as they work to resolve all permanent status issues including security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. The United States cannot force a solution. The parties themselves must resolve their differences through direct negotiations.
But, we believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the ‘67 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.
The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, and for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We believe that through good faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem, and safeguards its status for people around the world.
For negotiations to be successful, they must be built on a foundation of mutual trust and confidence. That is why both Israelis and Palestinians must refrain from unilateral statements and actions that undermine the process or prejudice the outcome of talks.
When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones in this conflict. And when instigators deliberately mischaracterize the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s old city and call upon their brethren to “defend” nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called “attacks,” it is purely and simply an act of incitement. These provocations are wrong and must be condemned for needlessly inflaming tensions and imperiling prospects for a comprehensive peace.
It is our devotion to this outcome – two states for two peoples, secure and at peace – that led us to condemn the announcement of plans for new construction in East Jerusalem. This was not about wounded pride. Nor is it a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it – and staying there until the job is done.
New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need. It exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region could hope to exploit. And it undermines America’s unique ability to play a role – an essential role, I might add — in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.
We objected to this announcement because we are committed to Israel and its security, which depends on a comprehensive peace. Because we are determined to keep moving forward along a path that ensures Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state living in peace with its Palestinian neighbors, who can realize their own legitimate aspirations. And because we do not want to see that progress jeopardized.
When Prime Minister Netanyahu and I spoke, I suggested a number of concrete steps that Israel could take to improve the atmosphere and rebuild confidence. The Prime Minister responded with specific actions Israel is prepared to take toward this end, and we discussed a range of other mutual-confidence building measures. Senator Mitchell continued this discussion in Israel over the weekend, and is meeting with President Abbas today. We are making progress and we are working hard to keep the proximity talks moving ahead. I am looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu today in Washington and President Obama will see him tomorrow. We will follow up on these discussions and seek a common understanding about the most productive way forward.
Neither our commitment nor our goal has changed. The United States will continue to encourage all parties to take steps that advance the prospects for peace.
We commend the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for the reforms they have undertaken to strengthen law and order, and the progress they have made in improving the quality of life in the West Bank. But we encourage them to redouble their efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, continue to ensure security and rule of law, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians.
We applaud Israel’s neighbors for their support of the Arab Peace Initiative and the proximity talks. But their rhetoric must now be backed up by action. They should make it easier to pursue negotiations and an agreement. That is their responsibility.
And we commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for embracing the vision of the two-state solution and for acting to lift road-blocks and ease movement throughout the West Bank. But we also expect Israel to continue taking concrete steps that will help turn that vision into reality — building trust and momentum toward comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
From the time of David Ben-Gurion, who accepted the UN proposal to divide the land into two nations, Israel and Palestine, leaders like Begin and Rabin have made difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace in the name of Israel’s future. It was Rabin himself who said, “For Israel there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war.” Last June at Bar-Ilan University, Prime Minister Netanyahu put his country on the path to peace. President Abbas has put the Palestinians on that path as well. The challenge for both will be to keep moving forward – and to stay on course.
Peace brings with it a future of promise and possibility. Ultimately, this is the vision that drives us. We see a future for Israel and for our relationship that is finally freed from the shackles of this conflict. Families no longer afraid of rockets in the night. Israelis traveling and trading freely in the region. Palestinians able to pursue their dreams in a state of their own. Former adversaries working together on issues of common concern like water, infrastructure, and development that builds broadly shared prosperity in the region. And a global strategic partnership between Israel and the United States that taps the talent and innovation of our societies to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities of the 21st century.
From addressing climate change and energy to hunger, poverty and disease, Israel has so much to offer. Look at the spread of high-tech start-ups, the influx of venture capital, the number of Nobel laureates. Israel has the potential to be a major force for progress on the world stage. We are already working as partners, just imagine how much more we could achieve together if the dream of peace can be realized.
We are entering the season of Passover. The story of Moses resonates for people of all faiths. It teaches us many lessons, including that we must take risks, even a leap of faith, to reach the promised land. When Moses urged the Jews to follow him out of Egypt, many objected. They said it was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. And later, in the desert, some thought it would be better to return to Egypt. It was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. And when they came to the very edge of the promised land, there were still some who refused to enter because it was too dangerous, too hard, and too risky.
Israel’s history is the story of brave men and women who took risks and did the hard thing because they knew it was right. Theodor Herzl championing a dream many said was impossible. Pioneers who found a desert and made it bloom. Warriors who offered their adversaries a hand of peace because they knew it would make Israel stronger. Who understood, as the rabbis teach, that the strongest among us is the one who turns an enemy into a friend. Israel has shed more than its share of bitter tears. But for the dream to survive, for the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must take up the tradition and do what may seem too dangerous, too hard, and too risky. And of this they can be sure: the United States will stand with them, sharing the risks and shouldering the burdens, as we face the future together.