Good evening, everyone. I’m delighted to be here and to see so many friends and colleagues.
Harold Tanner, thank you so much for that warm introduction. Malcolm Hoenlein, Richard Stone and Harold Tanner, and the event co-chairs, thank you for your leadership. It’s great to be back at the Conference of Presidents. Please know that we will continue to work closely with our valued partners in this room and beyond.
You remind us of the strength and dedication of the American Jewish community—a community devoted to the U.S.-Israeli bond, to human rights for all, and to the wider principle of tikkun olam—“repairing the world.”
I’m deeply grateful for this generous honor. I take it as a tribute to the dedicated work of President Obama and his Administration and my colleagues at the U.S. Mission, and our steadfast commitment to Israel.
Let me say a few words about our extraordinary partnership with Israel, starting by affirming an essential truth that will never change: the United States remains fully and firmly committed to the peace and security of the Jewish state of Israel.
From the moment he took office, President Obama’s guidance has been unambiguous: to strengthen and deepen that commitment. He has been clear all along that our special relationship with Israel is deeply rooted in our common interests and our common values.
That’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.
That’s why, even in these tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. That’s why we’ve also included additional support for the lifesaving Iron Dome anti-rocket system—which saw action just a few days ago in defense of innocent Israelis who live near the Gaza frontier.
That’s why we’re working jointly to beef up Israel’s security through the Arrow system, and through David’s Sling, and through joint military exercises that have never been more robust.
That’s why, if you ask members of the uniformed military of Israel or the United States, if you talk to leaders at the Kirya or the Pentagon, you’ll hear the same assessment: the American commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge has never been stronger. That’s a fact, plain and simple.
Of course, the Arab world is undergoing unprecedented political change, and the calls for freedom across the region have only heightened legitimate security concerns. But let there be no doubt: we are doing all we can to ensure that Israel remains secure even as the region becomes more free.
In Egypt, we remain deeply engaged—not only to offer friendship and support to those working for a peaceful political transition to democracy, not only to expand opportunity and development, but also to ensure that Egyptians continue to recognize the enormous and enduring benefits of ongoing peace with Israel.
We will always stand ready to act at a moment’s notice. When the Israeli embassy in Cairo was stormed, President Obama personally intervened, and we did not let up until the entire Israeli team was safe.
Let me also say a few words about Iran. Our message and our policy has been clear, from the President on down: we remain determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That’s why we led the charge to pass the toughest Security Council resolution sanctioning Iran that it has ever faced. Resolution 1929 laid the groundwork for us and other partners around the world to impose ever tighter bilateral sanctions. Moreover, as the President has said repeatedly, all options remain on the table.
Now, we also continue to believe that lasting security means lasting peace. So our efforts toward Arab-Israeli peace continue. It is precisely our commitment to Israel’s security that spurs us to advance peacemaking.
But make no mistake: President Obama, Secretary Clinton, I, and our entire Administration understand there are no short-cuts. And we have demonstrated that unflinchingly at the UN these past months.
There is no substitute for direct, face-to-face negotiations. The goal remains a lasting peace: 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. That is the only path to Israel’s decades-long quest for security and the only path to fulfilling the Palestinian people’s legitimate aspirations.
And that is why we have stood firm on principle as the Palestinians sought UN membership prematurely—and we will continue to fight against any obstacle placed on the path to peace.
But that is not our only fight at the UN. The Obama Administration has been tireless in its campaign to guarantee that Israel gets fair and equal treatment at the UN.
Now, all countries come in for knocks every now and again, including, if not especially, our own. But what Israel faces daily at the UN is something entirely different. As Ambassador Prosor can attest, it’s relentless. It’s obsessive. It’s ugly. It’s bad for the UN. It’s bad for peace. And it must stop.
As the President said last year when he spoke before the UN General Assembly, “Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate.” He went on: “efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.” We have kept that promise, day in and day out. In fact, there hasn’t been a day in this job when my team and I haven’t worked to follow through on the President’s solemn vow.
So when, earlier this year, some tried to inject the Security Council into matters that can only be resolved through direct negotiations, we vetoed it.
When a ten-year commemoration was held for the 2001 Durban conference, which featured revolting displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, we refused to participate.
And when the deeply flawed Goldstone Report was released, we insisted, as always, on Israel’s right to defend itself.
Our Israeli friends are glad we’re at the UN, in New York, Geneva, and elsewhere. They’re glad we’re here to stand together against unfair treatment, to fight double standards, and to help Israel exercise its rights across the entire UN system.
I hope we never let our justified frustration over the treatment of Israel blind us to the ways in which the UN is vital to our security and our values. It’s not in America’s interest to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Whether it’s bringing the world together to isolate Iran or North Korea; keeping the peace in conflict zones at a fraction of the cost of sending U.S. troops; saving the lives of refugees and starving children; or fostering democracy in places like South Sudan and Liberia — the work of the UN is fundamentally in our interest. We will continue to lead, to pursue our interests and our values, and to stick up for fair treatment for Israel.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will remain guided by our principles. America is deeply and permanently committed to Israel’s peace and security. It is an abiding commitment for President Obama and his entire Administration. It is a commitment that spans generations. It spans political parties. It is not negotiable. And it never will be. Thank you very much.
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