Ten Israel Questions Mitt Romney Must Answer

— by David A. Harris

We are thrilled that Mitt Romney will be following the lead set by President Obama and visiting Israel as a presidential candidate. Romney’s visit to Israel will provide him with the perfect opportunity to clarify a number of broad and unclear foreign policy statements that he’s made on the campaign trail. Our hope is that Romney will be inspired by his surroundings and give the thorough and detailed answers to the questions on which many have been seeking answers.

  1. Governor Romney, when you say that you will “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, to what are you referring? Are you planning to reverse the unprecedented amount of military assistance that has come from this Administration? Are you planning to stop voting with Israel 100% of the time in the United Nations Security Council? Are you planning on driving a wedge between the U.S. and Israeli militaries, which are cooperating closer than ever before?
  2. Governor Romney, what is your Iran policy? Several media outlets — including the New York Times and Los Angeles Times — have noted that when it comes to a specific Iran policy, the steps you mention are not much different from those of the current Administration. What will you actually do differently? Sound bites like “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon… If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not” are unacceptable answers.
  3. Governor Romney, if Russia is indeed the United States’ “number one geopolitical foe,” what do you make of the growing closeness between Israel and Russia — particularly vis-à-vis stopping Iran? Perhaps you could provide your answer to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres, who recently hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  4. Governor Romney, in addition to your campaign forming a “strategic partnership” with Ron Paul, one of the U.S.-Israel relationship’s staunchest opponents on the Hill to win your nomination, your campaign advisors include:
    • Israel-challenged former Governor and White House Chief of Staff John Sonunu as an attack dog;
    • “Special Adviser” Vin Weber who lobbied for companies that did business with Iran;
    • “Special Adviser” Norm Coleman who dog whistled about the U.S. embassy while belittling Jewish voters; and
    • Surrogate John Bolton who passed off a false story authored by an “anti-Israel warrior” and former Yasser Arafat adviser as fact.

    How will these individuals shape your Israel policies? Are these individuals with checkered pasts on Israel part of your “do the opposite” plan?

  5. Governor Romney, are you actually vetting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for vice president? How do you account for Rice’s much-criticized record on Israel? Are you comfortable with her comparison of Palestinians to African Americans fighting for civil rights in the 1960s? Do you agree with the way she pressured Israel to accept a peace treaty with Hezbollah before the Israeli military had a chance to complete its military operations?
  6. Governor Romney, do you intend to start all foreign aid at zero, including to Israel? You went on record as agreeing with Texas Governor Rick Perry during the primary debates, without clarifying whether or not this promise included any memorandums of understanding in regards to Israel. Furthermore, you failed to clarify your stance during an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition. You may want to make your position clearer when meeting with Israeli citizens who have benefitted from President Obama’s unprecedented foreign aid record.
  7. Governor Romney, does your admiration for President Ronald Reagan extend to his mixed Israel record? As a reminder, Reagan — who never visited Israel throughout his lifetime — sold weaponry to Israel’s enemies while refusing sales to the Jewish state, supported anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, condemned Israel’s attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor, and suspended key cooperation agreements between the United States and Israel. Are these the actions that inspire your “do the opposite” plan?
  8. Governor Romney, with so many of President George W. Bush‘s advisors — including Dan Senor, Tevi Troy, Mary Beth Long, and John Lehman — on your staff, how similar will your foreign policies be? After serving in an Administration that allowed Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge to collapse, revoked hundreds of millions of dollars in loan guarantees, endorsed participation by Hamas in Palestinian elections, and refused to sell bunker-busting bombs for potential use to halt the Iranian nuclear efforts, isn’t it fair to wonder whether these advisors will push you in a similar direction as their previous boss?
  9. Governor Romney, do you still believe that politics ends at the water’s edge? You strongly criticized members of the Democratic Party during President George W. Bush’s time in office, arguing that “we need to not have people running their own separate foreign policies.” During your travels overseas, will you keep your own words in mind, as well as the pledge you made this week in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention, and refrain from criticizing a sitting president’s foreign policies?
  10. Governor Romney, you repeatedly have failed to offer any of your own original ideas for how you would conduct foreign policy in your own administration. Rather than offer criticisms of President Obama — what would you do?

On Israel, Obama’s Actions Speak Louder than Romney’s Words

— by David A. Harris

It’s great to see that Mitt Romney has traveled to Israel, following in then-Senator Barack Obama’s footsteps. But when it comes to who pro-Israel voters will choose, one candidate — Mitt Romney — has a record of rhetoric, whereas the other, the president has an unprecedented record of achievement.

Some say talk is cheap, but this president has gone before the audiences most hostile to Israel — including the United Nations — and proudly defended his support for Israel, and Israel’s legitimacy, on the world stage. In fact his last UN speech was so powerful that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Obama’s support for Israel “a badge of honor, and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor.”

But actions speak louder than words. This president has sent more financial support to Israel than any other, including unprecedented additional support for missile defense; he has taken security cooperation to new heights; and he’s stood strongly against a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the UN. In fact this is the only president since Israel’s founding with a 100% pro-Israel voting record at the UN. From unparalleled diplomatic support for the Jewish State to unrivaled support for her qualitative military edge, the facts speak volumes. And on Iran, no president has ever done more, levying crushing sanctions, gathering a global coalition and repeatedly making clear that all options are on the table.

But what I say is less important than what Israel’s leaders say. Whether it’s President Shimon Peres noting that “we have a friend in the White House,” or Prime Minister Netanyahu saying “I trust Barack Obama” and “We owe him a special measure of gratitude,” these leaders’ praise speaks volumes. This is not the usual diplomatic-speak; these comments speak to the truth of the current situation. Today, the U.S.-Israel relationship is closer than ever thanks to this president. That’s a fact.

Obama Signs US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act

— by David A. Harris

Friday’s action by the President is an important step forward for the U.S.-Israel relationship — and only the latest demonstration of President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security. Once again, this President has taken a firm stand in support of Israel and we applaud him for signing the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Act of 2012 — as all members of the pro-Israel community should. With today’s signing, there should be no doubt that this pro-Israel President stands squarely behind Israel.

In addition to reaffirming the U.S.’s commitment to Israel, the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 resolves to provide Israel with military support, veto anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations, expand cooperation with Israel across many facets of society, and assist with ongoing peace efforts with the Palestinians — all as President Obama has done. The bill also states that the U.S. will support all efforts to strengthen Israel’s missile defense, including the Iron Dome system — which is one of the President’s signature pro-Israel accomplishments.

Transcript of Obama’s remarks at the signing follows the jump.
Pool Report

The President was accompanied by the bill’s sponsor in the Senate, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and the original sponsor in the House, Howard Berman (D-CA). The White House identified the other three guests as Richard Stone, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Lee Rosenberg, chairman of the board of AIPAC; and Howard Friedman, past chair of the AIPAC board.

The bipartisan bill passed the Senate June 29 by voice vote, and by voice vote in the House July 17.

Remarks by President Obama at Signing of the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act

Hello, everybody.  Hope you guys are all staying cool.  Well, listen, I just wanted to welcome these outstanding leaders to the Oval Office.  I want to in particular acknowledge Congressman Howard Berman and Senator Barbara Boxer, who have done outstanding work in shepherding through this bipartisan piece of legislation that underscores our unshakeable commitment to Israel.

As many of you know, I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues — intelligence, military, technology.  And, in many ways, what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscore our unshakeable commitment to Israel security.

I’m also very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce $70 million in additional spending … in additional spending for Iron Dome.  This is a program that has been critical in terms of providing security and safety for the Israeli families.  It is a program that has been tested and has prevented missile strikes inside of Israel.  And it is testimony to the leadership of the folks sitting here that we’re going to be able to lock in that fund to assure that that program continues and that we are standing by our friends in Israel when it comes to these kinds of attacks.

Let me just close by saying that the tragic events that we saw in Bulgaria emphasize the degree to which this continues to be a challenge not just for Israel, but for the entire world — preventing terrorist attacks and making sure the people of Israel are not targeted.

And I hope that, as I sign as this bill, once again everybody understands how committed all of us are — Republicans and Democrats — as Americans to our friends in making sure that Israel is safe and secure.

Leon Panetta, our Secretary of Defense, will be traveling to Israel to further consult and find additional ways that we can ensure such cooperation at a time when, frankly, the region is experiencing heightened tensions.

So, with that, let me sign this bill.  Again, I want to thank all who are standing beside me for their outstanding leadership and their outstanding work on this issue.

House GOP Fifth Vote Against Strengthening Iran Sanctions

— David A. Harris

Once again, for the fifth time, every House Republican but one chose to stand with big business instead of America’s and Israel’s security by voting against measures that penalize mining companies that do business with Iran. We’re proud of House Democrats for their introduction and near-unanimous support for these crucial measures. But it is surprising and profoundly discouraging that so many pro-Israel Republican members of Congress — members who repeatedly and rightly discuss the importance of stopping Iran’s nuclear program — continue to vote against these measures that tighten sanctions. The time is long overdue for House Republicans to quit playing politics, and to start working with Democrats to jointly get serious about stopping Iran.
More information about Republicans voting against measures to strengthen Iran sanctions is available here.  

GOP’s 31st Quixotic Attempt To Repeal Obamacare

— by David Streeter

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today slammed the House Republican Caucus for continuing their quixotic campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act — the same bill supported by the vast majority of American Jews and deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court. NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris said:

This effort — the 31st such vote by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — proves once again that Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) care significantly more about politics than policy, as this effort will simply not succeed. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been found constitutional by the Supreme Court and will provide life-saving health insurance to millions of Americans. Sadly, House Republicans would rather waste time with one more unnecessary vote than focus on working to further improve on health care reform or focusing on job creation. Most Jewish Americans — along with countless others — supported Obamacare and millions of Americans will benefit from the legislation as it is implemented. It is way past time for Republicans to cease tilting at windmills and quit playing politics with Americans’ health insurance.

If Only Anne Frank Had Been Packing A Luger

Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher (R-OH) campaign video offensively blames Holocaust on gun control.


— by David A. Harris

Using the memories of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust to make a political point is never appropriate, under any circumstances. For Ohio Republican House candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher to imply that these innocent lives were taken because of gun control laws is simply beyond the pale. Wurzelbacher — who is just the latest in a long line of Republicans who seem to think it is acceptable to use the Holocaust for political gain-must apologize and remove this offensive video immediately.”

With this video, Wurzelbacher joins the ranks of other Republicans such as presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, Governor Rick Scott (R-FL), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Representatives Allen West (R-FL), Michele Bachmann (R-MN), and Trent Franks (R-AZ), WV Senate candidate John Raese and FL House candidate Adam Hasner who have shamefully abused the Holocaust to make political points.

Hunter Walker of the New York Observer reported today:

Samuel ‘Joe The Plumber’ Wurzelbacher, the 2008 campaign microcelebrity and Ohio congressional candidate, has an interesting theory about the Holocaust. Yesterday, Mr. Wurzelbacher released a campaign web video in which he blamed the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide on gun control laws.

‘In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917 one-point-five million Armenians, unable to defend themselves were exterminated,’ Mr. Wurzelbacher says in the clip. ‘In 1939, Germany established gun control. From 1939 to 1945, six million Jews and seven million others unable to defend themselves were exterminated.’

Mr. Wurzelbacher’s video features footage of him on a shooting rage blasting fruits and vegetables with a shotgun. As the clip draws to a close, Mr. Wurzelbacher, gun in hand, proclaims, ‘I love America.’

The description of the video describes gun ownership as ‘our last line of defense’ from tyranny and poses a rather existential question about Mr. Wurzelbacher’s produce shooting hobby.

‘If you hunt or just like shooting guns, the 2nd Amendment will always be a good thing. History also tells us it’s our last line of defense in the face of an out-of-control government,’ the description says. ‘And killing fruits and vegetables is… what?’

Emergency Committee for Israel: The Emperor Has No Clothes

— by David A. Harris

Republicans are spending a great deal of cash this election cycle attacking President Barack Obama in the Jewish community by fibbing about his powerful support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, and smearing his unprecedented efforts to stop Iran’s drive towards a nuclear weapon.

Why? Because they know that venturing into domestic issues is a non-starter for the vast majority of Jews, even if what they’re saying regarding the Middle East isn’t true. Republican Jewish groups and the so-called “Emergency Committee for Israel” (ECI) have been at the vanguard of this effort, with ECI even forming a Super PAC related to their non-profit organization.

All along, observers might have assumed that the leaders of these efforts at least believed what they were selling, facts be damned. But now we know better. Now we know that they’re just trying to get their guy elected, and they don’t even believe their own arguments; we know this based on their own public statements.

A co-leader of ECI, the well-known conservative William Kristol, recently spoke in New   York at a debate in front of a Jewish crowd. Given ECI’s history up to the present day of unfairly lambasting the president’s strong Israel policy, Kristol surely came out swinging at the president, right? Hardly. The Israeli paper Haaretz reported that Kristol said Obama’s “policies today resemble those of his predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.” What? “I am happy to agree with Obama to a considerable degree,” Kristol added. And his take on the Israel policy differences between Obama and Romney? “Not that great.”

Did Kristol try to walk-back his hour-long moment of truth? Of course. But I don’t know how you unring that bell. My question is, given his confession, will ECI stop viciously and falsely attacking the president as being somehow virulently anti-Israel — attacks which have been condemned by the nonpartisan mainstream of the American Jewish community?

At long last, we can see that this emperor — Bill Kristol, and ECI — have no clothes.

Originally published in Politico.

DREAM Act Protects Children From Deportation

Reactions to the Department of Homeland Security’s new policy directive halting deportations of immigrants who have met the standards of achievement and responsibility that would have qualified them for residency status under the as yet unpassed DREAM Act. There new policies remove the threat of deportation from those who were brought to the United States as children.

Rabbi Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs:

Finally, reason and decency have come to the table in the immigration debate. The JCPA has advocated for passage of the DREAM Act to reward children who, despite their circumstances, have worked hard and remained in school.  But in the face of legislative stagnation, we applaud President Obama and Secretary Napolitano for issuing this policy directive on behalf of young and committed immigrants to permit them to stay and be a part of our nation. This step will assuage their fears that they could be deported at a moment’s notice.

The biblical mandate to treat the stranger as our own holds particularly true to American Jews. Just as we were strangers in Egypt, many Jews began as strangers in America. In light of many of our own experiences, we have an obligation to see that today’s immigrants, looking for a share in the freedom and prosperity of America, are met with the same opportunities we have had.

Larry Gold, JCPA Chair:

Our immigration laws have increasingly been used as a means of turning people away, not welcoming them, betraying the promise of America as a nation that has benefited from the contributions of immigrants from all corners of the world. Today’s directive by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is a welcome step.  Finally, those who were brought to the United States as children and worked every day since then to graduate from our schools or serve our country in the military, do not need to fear that their success and effort will be destroyed with deportation.”

Marc R. Stanley and David A. Harris:

I want to express our strong support for President Obama’s crucial effort to help reform America’s immigration system. These new measures will remove the threat of deportation from those who were too young to have any say over their legal status, and this effort represents a fair and just policy for those who have known deep uncertainty and fear throughout their lives. The beneficiaries of this decision have worked hard to find a place in the country that they call home. Many of these young people have even risked their lives as members of the armed forces; these young people deserve the opportunity to reach for the American dream without it being denied.

American Jews — as descendants of immigrants, if not immigrants ourselves — understand profoundly what it means to have a shot at success in America. The provisions announced by the President today provide that opportunity. Once again, President Obama has implemented a policy that reflects the values of the vast majority of American Jews — and indeed most Americans — and we thank him for his bold leadership.

Israel’s President Shimon Peres Received Medal of Freedom

Remarks by US President Barack Obama at Presentation of the Medal of Freedom to Israeli President Shimon Peres

Good evening, everybody.  Please have a seat.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House on this beautiful summer evening.

The United States is fortunate to have many allies and partners around the world.  Of course, one of our strongest allies, and one of our closest friends, is the State of Israel.  And no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and to bring our two nations closer as the leader that we honor tonight — our friend, Shimon Peres.  (Applause.)

Remainder of the President’s remarks follow the jump.
Among many special guests this evening we are especially grateful for the presence of Shimon’s children — Tzvia, Yoni and Chemi, and their families.  Please rise so we can give you a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We have here someone representing a family that has given so much for peace, a voice for peace that carries on with the legacy of her father, Yitzhak Rabin — and that’s Dalia.  We are grateful to have you here.  (Applause.)  Leaders who’ve helped ensure that the United States is a partner for peace — and in particular, I’m so pleased to see Secretary Madeleine Albright, who is here this evening.  (Applause.)  And one of the great moral voices of our time and an inspiration to us all — Professor Elie Wiesel.  (Applause.)

The man, the life that we honor tonight is nothing short of extraordinary.  Shimon took on his first assignment in
Ben-Gurion’s Haganah, during the struggle for Israeli independence in 1947, when he was still in his early 20s.  He ran for President of Israel — and won — when he was 83.   (Laughter.)

By the way, I should mention that I just learned that his son-in-law is also his doctor.  And I asked for all his tips.  (Laughter.)

Shimon has been serving his nation — and strengthening the bonds between our two nations — for some 65 years, the entire life of the State of Israel.  Ben-Gurion and Meir, Begin and Rabin  —  these giants of Israel’s founding generation now belong to the ages.  But tonight, we have the rare privilege in history  —  and that’s to be in the presence of a true Founding Father.

Shimon, you have never stopped serving.  And in two months we’ll join our Israeli friends in marking another milestone  — your 89th birthday.  (Applause.)    

Now, I think Shimon would be the first to tell you that in the ups and downs of Israeli politics, he has been counted out more than once.  But in him we see the essence of Israel itself   —  an indomitable spirit that will not be denied.  He’s persevered, serving in virtually every position — in dozens of cabinets, some two dozen ministerial posts, defense minister, finance minister, foreign minister three times.  Try that, Madeleine.  (Laughter.)  And now, the 9th President of Israel.  And I think President Clinton would agree with me on this — Shimon Peres is the ultimate “Comeback Kid.”  (Laughter.)

And he’s still going  —  on Facebook, on You Tube —  (laughter)  — connecting with young people; looking to new technologies, always “facing tomorrow.”  Recently, he was asked, “What do you want your legacy to be?”  And Shimon replied, “Well, it’s too early for me to think about it.”  (Laughter.)

Shimon, you earned your place in history long ago.  And I know your work is far from done.  But tonight is another example of how it’s never too early for the rest of us to celebrate your legendary life.

Shimon teaches us to never settle for the world as it is.  We have a vision for the world as it ought to be, and we have to strive for it.  Perhaps Shimon’s spirit comes from what he calls the Jewish “dissatisfaction gene.”  (Laughter.)  “A good Jew,” he says, “can never be satisfied.”  There is a constant impulse to question, to do even better.  So, too, with nations  —  we must keep challenging ourselves, keep striving for our ideals, for the future that we know is possible.

Shimon knows the necessity of strength.  As Ben-Gurion said, “An Israel capable of defending herself, which cannot be destroyed, can bring peace nearer.”  And so he’s worked with every American President since John F. Kennedy.  That’s why I’ve worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu to ensure that the security cooperation between the United States and Israel is closer and stronger than it has ever been  —  because the security of the State of Israel is non-negotiable, and the bonds between us are unbreakable.  (Applause.)

Of course, Shimon also knows that a nation’s security depends not just on the strength of its arms, but upon the righteousness of its deeds  —  its moral compass.  He knows, as Scripture teaches, that we must not only seek peace, but we must pursue peace.  And so it has been the cause of his life  —  peace, security and dignity, for Israelis and Palestinians and all Israel’s Arab neighbors.  And even in the darkest moments, he’s never lost hope in  —  as he puts it —  “a Middle East that is not a killing field but a field of creativity and growth.”

At times, some have seen his hope and called Shimon Peres a dreamer.  And they are right.  Just look at his life.  The dream of generations, after 2,000 years, to return to Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people  —  Shimon lived it.  The dream of independence, a Jewish State of Israel  —  he helped win it.  The dream of an Israel strong enough to defend itself, by itself, against any threat, backed by an ironclad alliance with the United States of America  —  he helped build it.

The dream of making the desert bloom  —  he and his wife Sonya were part of the generation that achieved it.  The dream of the high-tech Israel we see today  —  he helped spark it.  That historic handshake on the White House lawn  —  he helped to create it.  That awful night in Tel Aviv, when he and Yitzhak sang a Song for Peace, and the grief that followed  —  he guided his people through it.  The dream of democracy in the Middle East and the hopes of a new generation, including so many young Arabs  —  he knows we must welcome it and nurture it.

So, yes, Shimon Peres — born in a shtetl in what was then Poland, who rose to become President of Israel  —  he is a dreamer.  And rightly so.  For he knows what we must never forget:  With faith in ourselves and courage in our hearts, no dream is too big, no vision is beyond our reach.

And so it falls on each of us  — to all of us  —  to keep searching, to keep striving for that future that we know is possible, for the peace our children deserve.

And so it is a high honor for me to bestow this statesman, this warrior for peace, America’s highest civilian honor  —  the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  And I’d ask you to please join me in welcoming President Peres to the presentation.  (Applause.)

(The citation is read.)

MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America awards this Presidential Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres.  An ardent advocate for Israel’s security and the cause of lasting peace, Shimon Peres has devoted his life to public service.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the profound role he played in Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords, and he continues to serve the Israeli people with courage and dignity.  Through his unwavering devotion to his country and the cooperation of nations, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Before inviting remarks from President Peres, I’d like to conclude by inviting you all to join me in a toast, with the words that Shimon spoke when he accepted the Peace Prize in Oslo:

“From my earliest youth, I have known that while one is obliged to plan with care the stages of one’s journey, one is entitled to dream, and keep dreaming, of its destination.  A man may feel as old as his years, yet as young as his dreams.”

Shimon, to all our friends here tonight, and to our fellow citizens across America and Israel  —  may we never lose sight of our destination.  Shalom, and may we always be as young as our dreams.

L’chaim.  Cheers.

I have one last order of business to attend to.  Before I ask our recipient to come to the stage  —  while I began my remarks I was not yet sure whether one more  —  or two more guests of honor had arrived.  I think it would be entirely appropriate at this point for us also to acknowledge two people who have constantly sought to achieve peace, not only in the Middle East but all around the world  —  one of them happens to be traveling a lot these days on my behalf  —  (laughter)  — – and I am extraordinarily grateful to them.  Shimon, I know that you’re pleased to have two very dear friends to help celebrate this evening.  President Bill Clinton.  (Applause.)  And our outstanding Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, President Shimon Peres.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT PERES:  Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, it’s so hard to speak after you, my God.  (Laughter.)  You are so moving.  But thank you.  (Laughter.)

I really was profoundly moved by your decision to award me the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  To receive it is an honor.  To receive it from you, Mr. President, in the presence of my dear family, is a privilege that I shall cherish for the rest of my life.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

It is a testament to the historic friendship between our two nations.  When I was really young  —  not like now —  (laughter)   —  the founder of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, called me to work with him.  For 65 years, inspired by his leadership, I tried to gather strength for my country, pursue peace for my people.  I learned that public service is a privilege that must be based on moral foundations.

I receive this honor today on behalf of the people of Israel.  They are the true recipients of this honor.  With this moving gesture, you are paying, Mr. President, tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, fought for a state of their own  —  a state that would give them a shelter; a state that they could really defend by themselves.

So, Mr. President, you are honoring the pioneers who built homes on bombed mountains, on shifting land; fighters who sacrificed their life for their country.  On their behalf, I thank you.  I thank America for days of concern, for sleepless nights, caring for our safety, caring for our future.

Tonight, Mr. President, you kindly invited outstanding personalities whose commitment to Israel is nothing less than heroic.  I offer them the eternal gratitude of my people.  Present here, for me is a very moving presence is Dalia Rabin, the daughter of my partner, the unforgettable Yitzhak Rabin, who gave his life for peace.

Mr. President, you have pledged a lasting friendship for Israel.  You stated that Israel’s security is sacrosanct for you. So you pledged; so you act.  So you are acting as a great leader, as a champion for peace.  Thank you again.  (Applause.)

Dear friends, Israel sincerely admires the United States for being a land of the free, a home of the brave, a nation of generosity.  A world without the United States, without the values of the United States, would have been chaotic.  Moses began his journey to freedom by demanding, “let my people go.”  The prophet Isaiah promised nations will take up swords against nations.  A biblical promise became a grand American reality, first and foremost in human annals.  

When the Liberty Bell rang in Philadelphia, it resonated throughout the world.  A tired world was surprised to witness, contrary to its experience, a great nation becoming greater by giving, not by taking; by making generosity the wisdom of policy, and freedom as its heart  —  freedom from oppression, from persecution, freedom from violence and evil, freedom from discrimination and ignorance; liberty that does not fear liberty, liberty that doesn’t interfere with the liberty of others.  You introduced a constitution based on balance, not on force.

Liberty is also the soul of the Jewish heritage.  We didn’t give up our values, even when we were facing furnaces and gas chambers.  We lived as Jews.  We died as Jews.  And we rose again as free Jewish people.  We didn’t survive merely to be a passing shadow in history, but as a new genesis, a startup nation again.
We are faced with the worst of humanity, but also experience the best of humanity.  We shouldn’t forget either of the two.  When we discovered that we were short of land and water, we realized that we had the priceless resource  —  the courageous, undefeatable human spirit.

We invested in knowledge and turned our attention to the ever-growing promise of science.  Unlike land and water, science cannot be conquered by armies or won by wars.  In fact, science can make wars unnecessary.  Science provided Israel with the unexpected economic goals  —  it enabled us to absorb millions of immigrants.  Science enabled us to build an agriculture that is ten times the normal yield.  It enables us to build an effective defense against armies ten times greater than us.  Brave soldiers and sophisticated tools brought us victory in life.

But we remain the people of the book.  Yes, my friends, Israel is the living proof that democracy means progress, science means growth, literature and knowledge means enrichment.  Israel today is an innovating, pluralistic society where Jews, Christians and Muslims live together in peace.  It is not perfect, but it is an example of what may happen in the future.

My friends, we live now in and are now witnessing the departure of one age and the arrival of a new age.  The agricultural age lasted for 10,000 years; the scientific age is still fresh.  Yet in 50 years, the scientific age has achieved more than the 10,000 years of agriculture.  This new age has brought new challenges, new dangers.  It generated a global economy but not a global government.  It gave birth to horrors of global terrorism without global control.

The danger is today concentrated in Iran.  The Iranian people are not our enemies.  It is the present leadership that became a threat.  It turned Iran into a danger to world peace.  It is a leadership that aims to rule the Middle East, spreading terror all over the world.  They are trying to build a nuclear bomb.  They bring darkness to a world longing for light.

It is our responsibility to our own people, to our friends throughout the world, to posterity, that the Iranian threat must be stopped, and it cannot be delayed.

Mr. President, you worked so hard to build a world coalition to meet this immediate threat.  You started, rightly, with economic sanctions.  You made it clear  —  rightly, again  —  that all options are on the table.  Clearly, we support you and your policy.  (Applause.)

Friends, extremists are using the conflict of the Palestinians to cover their true ambitions.  The majority of the people in the Middle East, in my judgment, are tired of war.  In many homes, families still mourn the loss of their loved one.  I believe that peace with the Palestinians is most urgent  —  urgent than ever before.  It is necessary.  It is crucial.  It is possible.  A delay may worsen its chances.

I remember that 19 years ago, on the lawn outside this house, President Clinton  —  dear, Bill  —  initiated the peace process.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Since then, the Israelis and Palestinians have come a long way together.  But still, hard work remains ahead.  Israel and the Palestinians are, in my judgment, ripe today to restart the peace process.  (Applause.)

A firm basis already exists.  A solution of two national states  —  a Jewish state  —  Israel; an Arab state  —  Palestine.  The Palestinians are our closest neighbors.  I believe they may become our closest friends.  (Applause.)  Peace with the Palestinians will open ports of peace all around the Mediterranean.  The duty of leaders is to pursue freedom ceaselessly, even in the face of hostility, in the face of doubt and disappointment.  Just imagine what could be.

Now, a young Arab generation has opened its eyes and stood up against oppression, poverty and corruption.  They seek freedom.  They need freedom.  They understand that freedom begins at home.  I pray for their success.  I believe that their success may become the success of all of us.

So, President, my vision is an Israel living in full, genuine peace, joining with all the people in the Middle East  —  former enemies, new friends alike; Jerusalem becoming the capital of peace; an Israel that is a scientific center open to all, serving all without discrimination; a green Israel, an increasingly green Middle East.

My vision is an Israel whose moral code is old as the Ten Commandments tablets, and whose imagination as new as the digital tablets as well.  (Applause.)  Together, our old and modern vision can help bring tikkun olam.  Mr. President, that’s a better world.  It will take a long time before we shall achieve it and become satisfied, as you have said.  I believe that in the coming decade, Israel will be a center of the latest development in brain research.  As the secrets of the human brain are being revealed, people may improve their capacity to choose between right and wrong.

By the way, I am also extremely optimistic about the United States of America.  You are going to be the real greatest source of energy in our time.  You are introducing a new industry, which is not mass production but individual production.  It’s a new revolution.  And you put again science on top of your agenda.

I believe in the coming decade, Israel will be also a center of the latest developments in brain research.  As the secret of the human brain are revealed, people may improve their capacity to choose between right and wrong.  And absent of a global government  — government can contribute to world peace.

Dear friends, my greatest hope is that a dawn will arise when every man and women  —  Israeli or Palestinian, Syrian or Lebanese, young people wherever they are  —  will wake up in the morning and be able to say to themselves, I am free to be free.  Amen.  (Applause.)  

GOP Votes Against US-Israel Energy Funding

— by David Streeter

Thursday,  nearly all House Republicans voted against a measure that would have increased funding for joint U.S.-Israeli energy cooperation. Among the “no” votes was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Pennsylvania Congressmen  Mike Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach, Tim Murphy, and Pat Meehan. . National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO David A. Harris said:

“Yesterday’s vote by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Republican caucus against an initiative to increase funding for joint U.S.-Israel energy cooperation is just the latest instance in which Republicans have let partisan politics stand in the way of advancing the U.S.-Israel relationship. Israel is a shining example of a country seeking energy independence through research in clean technologies and the United States has everything to gain by forging a deeper partnership in this area with our strongest ally in the Middle East. It is very disheartening that so many pro-Israel Republicans who believe in American energy independence voted the way they did yesterday.”

The Motion to Recommit with Instructions that Republicans voted down yesterday contained a specific proposal to allocate an additional $1,000,000 for joint U.S.-Israeli energy cooperation. That funding would have been a significant investment in researching cleaner technologies and the use of renewable energy sources.