Some key take-aways from Barack Obama’s speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) today:
I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage. …I will ensure Israel can defend itself from any threat, from Gaza to Tehran. …
As president I will use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything.
That starts with aggressive, principled tough diplomacy with clear eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. … We have tried limited, piecemeal talks, outsourced to other parties. It has not worked. It is time for the US to lead ….
I have no interest to sit down just for sake of talking. But as president I would be willing at time and place of my choosing, if and only if it advances the interests of the United States. It is time once again to make diplomacy succeed.
(Choice to Iran will be clear). If you abandon your nuclear program, your support for terrorism, and your threats to Israel, there will be economic incentives. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.
(And it will be clear to the world) that the Iran regime is the author of its own isolation, and that will strengthen our hand — with allies, Russia, China …
(A contact in the room observed that Mccain got a better reception two days ago. “Applause on Obama’s Iran comments was very lackluster – and the cheers seemed to largely come from the student delegation there.”)
Here’s a full transcript of Obama’s remarks as prepared for delivery (.pdf).
Highlights from liveblog of Obama speech below:
Extraordinary night last night. I want to publicly acknowledge Hillary Clinton for extraordinary race that she has run. …She has made history alongside me for the past 16 months.
Provocative emails circulating around Jewish community in country. Let me know if you see this guy Barack Obama because he sounds pretty scary.
Today I will be speaking from my heart as a true friend of Israel.
I know that when I visit AIPAC, I am among friends, good friends. Friends who share my strong commitment that bond between US and Israel unbreakable today, unbreakable tomorrow, unbreakable forever ….
One of many things I admire about Aipac is fight for this cause from the bottom up …. to make sure bond between Israel and the US is rooted in more than our shared national interests, rooted in shared values and stories of our people. As president, I will work with you to ensure that this bond that is strengthened.
First became familiar with Israel when I was 11 years old. Had a camp counselor, who was American Jew, but he had lived in Israel. Faith family and culture, year after year, generation after generation. Story made powerful impression on me. I had grown up without a sense of roots. My father from Kenya, left when I was two. My mother white, from Kansas. In many ways I did not know where I came from. Understood Zionist idea that there is always a homeland at center of our story. I also learned about horror of the Holocaust, and terrible urgency it brought to need for state of Israel. My grandfather served in World War II, for months when he came home from Germany, he was in shock. …
Like Eisenhower, each of must bear witness… We must mean what we say when we speak the words ‘never again.’ (sustained applause)
Just a few years after liberation of camps that David Ben Gurion established state of Israel. Just and necessary. Sixty years later, we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as president I will never compromise when it comes to Israel’s security. (applause)
Not when maps across Middle East that don’t acknowledge Israel’s existence, not when rockets raining down on Sderot. ….
I have long understood Israel’s quest for peace and need for security. Never more than travels two years ago when went to Israel, flying on IDF helicopter, …..talked to people who never wanted something more simple and more elusive than secure future for their children.
I am proud to be part of strong, bipartisan consensus that has vowed to stand by Israel in face of all threats. That is a commitment Mccain and I share. Support for israel goes beyond party in this country.
But part of our commitment must be speaking up for Israel’s security when Israel is at risk. None of us can be satisfied that [recent] foreign policy has made Israel more secure. Hamas controls Gaza. Iraq wrong war – Iran more dangerous. Iran emboldened and poses greatest strategic threat to US and Israel in a generation.
Question is how to move forward. There are those who would continue and intensify this failed status quo. Ignoring evidence our recent foreign policy has been dangerously flawed. Then there are voices that blame Middle East conflict for all region’s extremism. Those that threaten Israel threaten us.
I will bring to White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage.
Will ensure Israel can defend itself from any threat, from Gaza to Tehran.
As president I will implelement a Memeorandum of Understanding to provide $30 billion in [defense] investments to Israel – not tied to any other nation.
I will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself at the UN and around the world. (applause)
Real security can only come through lasting peace. That is In Israel’s national interest, in America’s national interest, and in the Palestinian peoples’ interest. (applause)
I will help achieve the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. And I won’t wait until waning days of my presidency. I will take an active role to advance cause of peace from start of my administration (applause). …
There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations. (applause) That is why I opposed allowing Hamas to run in 2006 presidential elections. Israel and the Palestinian Authority warned us, but this administration pressed ahead. The result is Gaza controlled by Hamas.
Egypt must cut off smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
Israel can also advance cause of peace by taking appropriate steps consistent with its security to ease freedom of movement – at checkpoints – as it agreed to do with Bush administration at Annapolis.
Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non negotiable.
Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and enables them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, secure in its borders, and Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, secure and undivided.
No illusions any of this will be easy. Most Israelis and Palestinians want peace.
US must be strong and consistent partner in this process, help committed partners achieve progress.
Threats to Israel start close to home but do not end there.
Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of WMD which is why Israeli action entirely justified to end that threat.
Also believe US has responsibility to support Israel”s effort to renew peace talks with Syrians. We should never force Israel to negotiating table. But neither should we block negotiations when Israeli leaders think they serve Israeli interests.
Success requires full enforcement of UN SC res: It is time for reckless Syrian behavior in Lebanon to come to end.
There is no greater threat to Israel or peace than Iran. This audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats. The enemies of Israel should have no doubt: regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in support of Israel’s security.
The Iran regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across region. It pursues nuclear capability that could start arms race and… its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.
My goal will be to eliminate this threat.
Just as we are clear eyed about threat, we must be clear about barriers to effective policy.
We knew in 2002 that Iran was a threat – supporting terrorism, etc…. Instead we ignored it and invaded Iraq.
When I opposed the war I knew it would fan flames of extremism in Middle East. It has.
US and Israel are less secure (because of Iraq invasion).
McCain and I differ on that.
Iran has strengthened its position (because of US policy in Iraq). Those are the facts and they cannot be denied
Refuse to continue policy that has made US and Israel less secure (applause)
McCain offers false choice. … I reject his logic because there is a better way.
Keeping all our troops in Iraq is precisely what strengthens Iran. It’s a policy for staying, not a policy for victory.
I have proposed phased redeployment of our troops for Iraq. Get out as carefully as we got in carelessly.
As president I will use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything (sustained applause).
That starts with aggressive, principled tough diplomacy with clear eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste.
We have tried limited piecemeal talks – outsourced to other parties. it has not worked. Time for the US to lead (applause). …
I have no interest to sit down just for sake of talking. But as president I would be willing at time of place of my choosing if and only if it advances the interests of the United States. (play on Rice’s speech).
Time once again to make diplomacy succeed.
(Choice to Iran will be clear).
If you abandon your nuclear program, your support for terrorism, and your threats to Israel – there will be economic incentives.
If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.
(And it will be clear to the world that that) Iran regime is the author of its own isolation, and that will strengthen our hand — with allies, Russia, China, etc.
(ticks off support for every element in Iran counterproliferation act. including ban on gas imports.)
I introduced legislation a year ago to divest from Iran….. For some reason, McCain never signed on. Anonymous senator blocks the bill. It is time to pass this into law. So we can tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime. We should also tighten sanctions on Iranian banks and other assets….
We must reduce our dependence on oil. And Bush policies have driven up the price of oil. And we can join Israel to develop alternative sources of energy. (applause, applause, applause)
We should work with Israel – increasing scientific collaboration and joint R/D – surest way to ensure leverage is to stop bankrolling the Iranian regime.
There should be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action to defend our security and our ally Israel. Do not be confused.
Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed and have more support at home and abroad if we have exahusted our diplomatic options. That is the change we need in our policy.
Tikkun Olam….obligation to repair this world…..American Jews are committed to social justice…..
(Jewish Americans joined African Americans in leading civil rights movement. …)
Their legacy is our heritage. We must work together … Jews and African Americans … to end prejudice and combat hatred in all its forms. Join our voices together – and in doing so even the mightiest enemies will fall down. Now is the time to be vigilant to be facing down every foe. Just as we move forward in seeking future of peace.
Now is the time to stand by Israel as it writes the next chapter. …
Now is the time to join together in the work of repairing this world.
Thanks everybody, God Bless You.