|AIPAC POLICY CONFERENCE 2009|
|Tuesday, 23 June 2009 13:35|
The AIPAC Policy Conference is the pro-Israel community's preminent annual gathering. The event attracts more than 6000 community and student activists from all 50 states, more than half of the Senate, a third of the House of Representatives and countless Israeli and American policymakers and thought leaders.
Netanyahu, Top U.S. Leaders Address Gala Banquet
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Gala Banquet live via satellite.
In a resounding show of support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, some 6,500 people gathered on Monday night for AIPAC’s annual Gala Banquet, which featured an address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via satellite and talks by top leaders of the House and Senate. More than half of Congress and scores of ambassadors and diplomats from countries around the world were in attendance, demonstrating the depth, breadth, and bipartisan strength of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
The Israeli prime minister emphasized his country’s desire to attain peace with its neighbors and his eagerness to work with President Obama to achieve it. He also stressed the dangers of a nuclear Iran and insisted that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) delivered the other keynote addresses, highlighting the permanence of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the need to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
“Across the gulf of history and space and language,” said Hoyer, “America looks to Israel and sees a friendship resting on something stronger than arms, more precious than oil. It rests on the ideals that come down to us from Amos and Micah and Isaiah. Those ideals, and the bond they inspire, are unbreakable, indissoluble.”
Gingrich Discusses Shared Threats to U.S., Israel
Newt Gingrich highlighted the critical importance of the U.S.-Israel alliance.
AIPAC Policy Conference 2009 continued on Sunday night with a rousing address by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who discussed the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and the threats that the two countries face from Iran and other extremists. Gingrich noted the shared values of America and Israel, asserting that AIPAC's work to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship is a distinctly American interest. "AIPAC is not just about Israel," he said. "AIPAC is about the American-Israel relationship, because the future of America and Israel are inextricably intertwined. A world which destroys Israel will certainly destroy the United States." Gingrich devoted particular attention to the gravity of the Iranian threat, noting the necessity of imposing strong sanctions on Iran and cutting off its access to international oil markets. "It was the deliberate driving down of the price of oil which bankrupted Gorbachev and the Soviet Union, and if we made the same strategy of deliberately driving down the price of oil, the Iranians would presently not have the money to subsidize terrorism around the world," he said.
Israeli President Shimon Peres called America an 'ally' and 'brave friend.' In an inspiring address, Israeli President Shimon Peres on Monday morning praised the U.S.-Israel relationship and thanked more than 6,000 AIPAC activists for their dedicated involvement in strengthening it. "For 60 years," he said, "America has been and still is more than just an ally - it is an unusual partner and a brave friend. I have heard it said, and I have heard it sung - today, more than ever - God bless America." Peres wished success to President Obama and said the new American leader "offers hope to the world." Peres also said the new Israeli government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is committed to peace with its neighbors, noting that Netanyahu "was at one time my political opponent. Today, he is my prime minister. He knows history and wants to make history. In our tradition, making history is making peace, and I am sure that peace is his priority." In his discussion of the Iranian nuclear threat, Peres said Iran seeks regional hegemony, targeting both Israel and Arab states. "They develop a nuclear option," he said. "They invest huge capital in long-range missiles. Iran is not threatened by anyone. Iran funds and arms Hizbullah and Hamas to spread division and terror, trying to impose a foreign and violent ideology. Their agents target Americans, Europeans and Arabs alike." Vice President Joe Biden delivered the concluding address of AIPAC Policy Conference 2009, highlighting the endurance of the U.S.-Israel relationship and affirming the Obama administration’s commitment to it. Biden’s address followed a speech by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The bond between Israel and the United States,” said Biden, “was forged by a shared interest in peace and security; by shared values that respect all faiths and peoples; by deep ties among our citizens; and by a common commitment to democracy.” Biden discussed the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran. Iran “plays a dangerous role in the region, supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, and undermining many of our friends,” he said. “Indeed, these proxies are the tools Iran uses to exploit conflicts, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to its advantage.” Kerry expressed similar concerns about the Iranian threat. “A nuclear-armed Iran would embolden Hamas and unleash Hezbollah,” he said. “A nuclear-armed Iran could spark a nuclear arms race in the world’s most dangerous neighborhood. When we say that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, we mean it.”