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Full Text of President Obama’s Speech to AIPAC Conference 2011

Here it is. Completed moments ago. Let the assessments begin! I watched this with 3 elderly Kurdish/Iraqi women. They were both skeptical and sympathetic. They noted the grey in his hair and said “See? Not even 4 years and he’s already getting grey!” Given the reactions so far I predict… more grey hairs for President Obama.

Good morning! Thank you, Rosy, for your very kind introduction. But even more, thank you for your many years 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 very meaningful journey through the Holy Land. And I want to thank you for your enduring friendship, your leadership and for your warm welcome today.

Thank you to David Victor, Howard Kohr and all the Board of Directors. And let me say that it’s wonderful to look out and see so many great friends, including Alan Solow, Howard Green and a very large delegation from Chicago.

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, Steny Hoyer, and the tireless leader I was proud to appoint as the new chair of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

We’re joined by Israel’s representative to the United States, Ambassador Michael Oren. As well as 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. Dan has always been a close and trusted advisor, and I know he’ll 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. 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 the 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 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, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.

A strong and secure Israel is in the national security interest of United States not simply because we share strategic interests, although we do both seek a region where families and their 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 also 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 fought must be the work of every generation. As two vibrant democracies, we recognize that the liberties and freedom 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 of the Jewish people.

We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a 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, I 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 grasped the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

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.

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.

And 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.

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 is 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, but in Latin America, in Europe, and in Asia. That impatience is growing, and is already manifesting itself in capitols around the world.

These are the facts. I firmly believe, and 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 UN or in any international forum. Because Israel’s legitimacy is not a matter for debate.

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, and we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.

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. For us to have leverage with the Palestinians, with the Arab States, and with the international community, the basis for negotiations has to hold out the prospect of success. 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. But since questions have been raised, let me repeat what I actually said on Thursday.

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, 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. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism; to stop the infiltration of weapons; and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. The duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.

That is what I said. Now, it was my reference to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps that received the lion’s share of the attention. 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. 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 forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides. The ultimate goal is two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.

If there’s 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 have done so because we cannot afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel would only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.

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

Ultimately, however, it is the right and 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. And as a friend of Israel, I am committed to doing our part to see that this goal is realized, while calling not just on Israel, but on the Palestinians, the Arab States, and the international community to join us in that effort. Because the burden of making hard choices must not be Israel’s alone.

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 or naivete. It’s 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.

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

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Publisher at Jewlicious
Founder of Jewlicious? Publisher? Man I hate titles. I coined the name Jewlicious and I slave over the site. I live in Jerusalem and I need to get some breakfast.
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16 Comments

  1. ck

    5/22/2011 at 12:02 pm

    So? Did Obama backtrack from his position last Thursday? Has he totally sold out the Palestinians? Sold out the Israelis? It seems that everyone sees into this speech what they want to see. That’s unfair to Obama but clearly this speech does not represent a bold and affirmative statement in either direction. Am I wrong?

    • Jeff

      5/22/2011 at 7:39 pm

      If we were intellectually honest with ourselves we would realize that this is the most anti Israel president to ever sit in the White house.We have been trained to think our support comes from liberals.In 1967 a change occurred.Israel defended itself.We were no longer perceived as the victim.Even though our cause is just.The left needs perceived victims like Micheal Moore needs carbohydrates. Like it or not most of our support now comes from conservatives.

  2. yosef

    5/22/2011 at 1:09 pm

    This speech was nothing different that his previous overly paternalistic and condescending attempts to belittle Israel and PM Netanyahu – nor is it the first time he has met with Jews after announcing “policy” to Arab ntions in very public forums that were completely contrary to Israels reasonable existence.

    It was yet again the President speaking out of both sides of his mouth and ultimately trying to get the upper-hand/rebut PM Netanyahu.

    One state is the only solution…Am Yisroel Chai!

  3. Rob Levi

    5/22/2011 at 2:20 pm

    The Eskimos are angry.

    Not too long ago their land was simply a territory where they lived their lives, free of political thoughts and they did what they wanted. Their resources were their own and they used them as they saw fit. The Eskimos had a culture and a religion of their own. That they weren’t a real country wasn’t an issue, it was their land claimed centuries ago and that was enough for the Eskimos.
    .
    One day, other non-Eskimos came to Alaska. They called themselves Americans. They were human beings but their culture and religion were different. They dressed differently, spoke differently and acted differently. The Americans were certainly an industrious people, building factories and schools and farms where none existed before. They were good traders and would often trade things for the land of the Eskimos so they could call a little something their own.
    More and more of these Americans kept coming and the Eskimos became alarmed at the prospect of losing everything to the Americans because those Americans were talking of making Alaska a state.
    The Eskimos, having heard of the American plan for statehood had many ideas about what to do about it. As is often the case, the fiercest and loudest won the argument. These fierce people called themselves Humans Against Mutuality And Statehood. They claimed that they would throw the Americans out of Alaska and that the Eskimo people would once again own all of what they considered to be their land. HAMAS vowed they would never stop fighting as long as one American was in Alaska. The Eskimos wanted to rule themselves independently as their own country. They had felt happy in their own territory decades ago never being made into a real country on their own but now decided that they were indeed a country and needed self-rule, free of Americans and HAMAS seemed the way to achieve it.

    Many listened to the fierce HAMAS and moved out of what they were told was going to be the confrontation zone. They were told by HAMAS that after they had kicked the Americans out of Alaska they could return victorious and bought into that line of thinking. Amazingly enough, HAMAS lost handily against the Americans and Alaska became America’s 49th state on January 3rd, 1959.

    Most Eskimos didn’t like it but saw they couldn’t really do anything about it and decided to get on with their lives as best as they could. Some, the more radical ones, decided to fight a war against the Americans, however pointless and silly to express their displeasure over having their land taken from them and made into American land even though that is exactly what they wanted to do to the Americans. The Eskimo general population, instead of being angry at HAMAS who had talked them into moving and demanding they provide them with suitable recompense are instead angry at the Americans for successfully defending themselves against HAMAS.

    The Eskimos now wish to propose a deal. They say they will make peace if the Americans go back to the Pre-1959 borders. That the pre-1959 borders are completely indefensible for the Americans there isn’t the point. That HAMAS waged terrorist war after war on the Americans trying to wipe them out for the past several decades isn’t the point. They even got a President to endorse their pre-1959 idea so it’s can’t be bad, right?

    So let us all be happy that the Eskimos are being so reasonable and tell the Americans that even though the pre-1959 borders didn’t work then, certainly they’ll work just fine now because after half a century of HAMAS murdering Americans at every opportunity they can obviously trust them now.

    • hannahrivkah

      5/23/2011 at 12:18 pm

      Wow. Considering the actual genocide committed against native Americans in the USA and the ongoing use of their lands as toxic waste dumps, this is either a very telling or really unfortunate analogy. Frankly, this is a brutally ignorant description and isn’t going to win anyone over to Israel’s point of view.

  4. Mike56

    5/22/2011 at 3:20 pm

    If AIPAC is satisfied with this pile if irresponsible halva – that would be another bad omen for Jewish people. If in 2012 more than 60% of my tribesmen support the most anti-Israel president in the US history (I do remember Carted, don’t worry) – that is definitely a mechanism of self-destruction. Actually, smart people as we are considered all over the world, shouldn’t have given this imposter even 30% approval. We’ll see

  5. themiddle

    5/22/2011 at 5:30 pm

    That is what I said. Now, it was my reference to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps that received the lion’s share of the attention. 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.

    He has climbed down from that tall, tall tree; climbed out of that deep, deep hole and pissed off a lot of leftists and Palestinians today.

    There remain a couple of key problems here. The first is that he could be lying and simply telling a specific audience what they want to hear. The second is that he did not mention refugees or Jerusalem at all and therefore has not clarified his position on either one. There can’t be peace without resolution of the refugee problem.

    • Jeff

      5/22/2011 at 8:12 pm

      I wouldn’t believe this guy if he told me the sky was blue.He’s a used car salesman.He sees the world through a Harvard professors lens.Jews don’t live at Harvard.They live in the most demented cul-de sac in the world.Just like people from Arizona don’t live on Pennsylvania avenue.They live on a border.Their the ones that have to live with this guys dreams and for them his dreams could be a nightmare.

  6. themiddle

    5/23/2011 at 7:47 am

  7. AlexK

    5/23/2011 at 12:22 pm

    Feels great to see my sentiments here echoed by other Jews. Maybe some of our blind and indoctrinated are actually beginning to see the light. No one is asking you to back Sarah Palin or support g-d in schools or to ban abortion. We’re just asking you not support a guy that doesn’t support Israel.

  8. josh

    5/23/2011 at 1:11 pm

    Bamba’s three facts are quite deceiving. Does AIPAC believe these lies?

    The Arab population west of the Jordan is actually expanding much less than before and fertility dropping while the Jewish fertility is slightly rising, outpacing every other Western country.

    Technology will keep Israel at the forefront of the world. Young Israelis can manage the advanced Merkava4 tank, professional Egyptian soldiers can barely handle the old AbramsM1A1. Technology is replacing production in Israel while Arab production is moving to China.

    The Arab Spring is still one big variable that even Bamba has no clue where it is leading.

  9. ugh

    5/24/2011 at 3:30 am

    OBAMA: “The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and CONTIGUOUS state.”

    This means connecting Gaze and West Bank, which represents an even more drastic position.

    • ugh

      5/24/2011 at 3:30 am

      *Gaza

    • ck

      5/24/2011 at 4:18 am

      Connecting Gaza and the W Bank was never at issue. We have offered the construction of a dedicated highway for that purpose many times. That’s not at all a “drastic position”

      • ugh

        5/24/2011 at 1:16 pm

        Creating “Pontoons”, as the pro-Palestinians call it, was rejected.

        Bridging borders with a highway does not equate contiguous borders.

        con·tig·u·ous/kənˈtigyo͞oəs/Adjective
        1. Sharing a common border; touching.
        2. Next or together in sequence.

        Don’t underestimate the semantical choice.

  10. steve

    5/24/2011 at 5:46 pm

    Amazing that two groups of Semites, Jews and Moslems, living in sand have become such boat rockers when they have had so much in common. With everyone’s professed belief in God you would think there would be a truce until God came down to settle the matter.As for “Mayor Barry” Obama, all I can say is that Al Capone would be proud of him. I equate his relationship to Rev. Wright as being no different than Adolph Hitler’s to Joseph Goebbels.

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