April 28, 2010
I begin by bringing you back years ago, to May 8, 1945, VE-Day. The
day the Nazis quit. People were cheering, dancing in the streets. But
one man was not dancing and not celebrating. One man sat alone,
depressed, in his room. He was the leader of Zionist movement and his
name was David Ben-Gurion.
Where the Allies saw victory, Ben-Gurion saw defeat. A third of the
Jewish people had been massacred. The survivors were forbidden to
immigrate to Palestine and the Jewish community there—the Yishuv—was
left without funds, without arms. And the ultimate blow—a new
president now sat in the White House, a former Haberdasher devoid of
diplomatic experience or the character to act. Sixty years of struggle
to settle the Land of Israel was wasted, it seemed; the Zionist
enterprise was dead. "Sad," Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary while the
world outside rejoiced. "Terribly sad."
Jewish history is rife with such moments—the destruction of our
Temples, the exiles and the inquisitions. And always at such moments,
we Jews have asked: is there hope still, can we go on?
Today, confronting the daunting threats to Israel's security and
legitimacy, we, too, might be tempted to succumb to despair. Indeed,
there are moments these days when the challenges facing Israel seem
overwhelming at best, at worst insurmountable.
The first of the perils facing Israel are those associated with
peace. How, might you ask, can peace be perilous?
Peace is a vision that we all share, a vision of two states—Jewish
and Palestinian—living side-by-side free of the fear of violence and
further territorial claims. But realizing that vision will require
painful sacrifices in the territories we regard as the cradle of
Jewish peoplehood. And making peace will entail colossal risks.
Keep in mind that Israel has already withdrawn from two territories—
from Lebanon in 2000 and Gaza in 2005—in order to generate the
conditions conducive to peace. But we did not get peace. We received
more than 15,000 rockets, and 1,000 deaths from suicide bombers. We
A vastly greater danger could be posed by a Palestinian state
directly adjacent to our major cities and industrial areas, that could
rain thousands of Iranian-supplied rockets on Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and
The danger exists that Palestinian leaders who have long refused to
recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people would
continue to do so, seeing the two-state solution as a two-stage
solution in which the final stage is Israel's dissolution.
Perilous, too, is the possibility that the process of creating a
Palestinian state could widen the rifts between those of our people
who insist that we conceded too little and those protesting that we
sacrificed too much. Establishing a Palestinian state could tear our
state—from both the right and the left—asunder.
The next danger facing Israel is the escalating campaign to deny it
legitimacy—to strip Israel of its right to defend itself, even its
right to exist.
We are all familiar with the Goldstone report, the spurious charge-
sheet compiled by a UN council that has condemned Israel more
frequently than all other countries—Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Libya—
combined; the report that found Israel guilty of war crimes and crimes
against humanity even before it began its deliberations; the tribunal
whose so-called judges included one who claimed that Hamas had only
fired "one or two rockets" into Israel and that the Jews dominated
British foreign policy.
Goldstone is only one component of the global and richly funded
campaign to boycott Israel economically, politically, and
academically; to force countries and public institutions to divest
from Israel, and to sanction Israel financially. Boycott, divesture,
and sanction—in short, BDS.
The BDS campaign is accompanied by attempts to arrest Israeli
political and military leaders for war crimes in various foreign
countries, by attempts to portray Israel as an apartheid state and
American support for Israel as the product of an invidious Israel
lobby. And there are the efforts to deny Israeli representatives the
right to speak on campuses.
But BDS also has military ramifications. Internalizing the lessons
of Goldstone, Hizbollah has now deployed its 50,000 missiles—three
times as many as it had in 2006—under homes, schools, and hospitals,
safe in the knowledge that they can be fired at Israel with impunity.
If Israel tries to defend itself, it will again be condemned for war
Tragically, Jewish history has taught us that every attempt to
annihilate us has been preceded by a campaign to dehumanize us. And
dehumanized, Israel could be rendered vulnerable to the most ominous
challenge of all: the challenge of a rapidly nuclearizing Iran.
This is an Iran that, if it acquires military nuclear capabilities,
presents Israel with not one but multiple threats. There is the threat
that Iran will live up to its leaders' pledges to wipe Israel off the
map, that it will make a nuclear device and place it atop one of the
many missiles it possess that can reach every Israeli city. This is
the Iran that could convey nuclear weaponry to terrorist groups and an
Iran that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,
transforming the entire region into a tinderbox.
The dangers of peacemaking, BDS, a nuclear Iran—such challenges can
indeed seem insuperable. And yet, as so often in our past, Israel's
leadership is rising to meet these challenges, rising courageously and
Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli Government have set out a
plan providing for the effective demilitarization of the Palestinian
state. That state will not have missiles capable of destroying our
cities or an air force capable of shooting down our civilian
airliners. It will not be able to make treaties will hostile entities
such as Iran. To prevent a recurrence of the Lebanon and Gaza
situation in which massive amounts of weaponry were smuggled across
neighboring Arab borders, Israel will seek a continued military
presence in the Jordan Valley.
The Prime Minister's plan further calls for the reciprocal and mutual
recognition between the two states. Just as Israel will recognize the
Palestinian state as the Palestinian nation state so, too, will the
Palestinian have to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish
people. I can assure you that this is not a tactical maneuver but
rather a fundamental prerequisite for peace. Without it, there can be
no end of claims, no true end of conflict.
The Government of Israel has taken unprecedented steps to promote
peace talks—steps that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton praised as
"unprecedented." Our ardent hope is that the Palestinian leadership
will soon return to the negotiating table and together we can advance
toward achieving a durable and historic peace.
Yes, there may be some who will accuse the Israeli government of
conceding too much or too little. Still, history teaches us that,
whenever offered genuine peace by intrepid Arab leaders such as King
Hussein and Anwar Sadat, Israelis have embraced that offer and
continued to embrace it unfalteringly.
Facing the threats to Israel's right to self-defense and existence,
the Government of Israel has joined with the Obama administration in
combating the Goldstone report wherever in whatever form it surfaces.
We are redoubling our efforts on campus, defeating divestiture motions
and sending speakers to meet with students of all political
backgrounds. We are reaching out to community groups of different
religions and ethnicities to explain Israel's case, and working with
local, state, and national representatives to pass legislation against
In meeting the Iranian threat, Israel appreciates President Obama's
determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and is
following his lead in galvanizing international support for biting
sanctions on Iran. We welcome the sanction legislation passed by both
Houses of Congress and encourage all state and local efforts to deny
Iran access to American markets and know-how. We expect the world to
act decisively to deny nuclear military capabilities to Iran while
reserving the right of any state—and especially a Jewish state that
knows too well the price of powerlessness—to defend itself.
We in Israel are meeting all of the monumental challenges confronting
us and yet, still, one has to wonder how we do it. How do we wake up
in the morning to tens of thousands of Hamas and Hezbollah rockets
pointed at our homes, to enemies who reject our past and deny us a
The temptation to despair can indeed be great. But so, too, is the
imperative to remember.
Remember, David Ben-Gurion on May 8, 1945 and then remember that same
Ben-Gurion exactly three years later proclaiming the rebirth of an
independent Jewish state in our homeland, the Land of Israel. Remember
how that state of a mere 600,000 souls armed with little more than
handguns defeated six invading armies, established a flourishing
Hebrew culture and a thriving democracy—remember how that poor tiny
state absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from around
Remember how that same state, nineteen years later, again faced
destruction at the hands of foreign armies and confronted that threat
while also grappling with a hostile Soviet bloc, a hostile China and
India, with no economy and no strategic relationship with the United
And recall, finally, Israel of 2010: a country at peace with two of
its former foes and committed to resolving its conflict with the
Palestinians; a country with superb relations with former Soviet bloc
countries, robust ties with China and India; a country with one of the
world's strongest economies; a country bonded with this nation, the
United States, in a multifaceted, unbreakable alliance.
Yes, we face challenges, some of them quite daunting, but we have
overcome similar obstacles in our past and we have prevailed.
Reinforced by our faith, aided by our resilience, we have prevailed,
but we have never been alone.
You, our supporters in the United States, Jews and non-Jews alike,
have contributed immensely to our success. And Israel, no less today
than in the past, calls once again for your backing.
Support us if we once again decide to make excruciating sacrifices and
take extraordinary risks for peace—and support us, too, if we decide
that the chances for real peace do not warrant those sacrifices and
Join us in fighting for Israel's right to defend itself and Israel's
right to exist. Join us in making that the fight of all Americans and
of all fair-minded people everywhere. And join us in the fateful fight
against Iranian nuclearization.
As in the past, at the time of Israel's creation and, later, in the
struggle to free Soviet Jewry, take to the streets and make your
voices heard. In your synagogues and community centers hang banners
declaring "End BDS" and "Stop the Iranian Bomb."
In spite of the differences that sometimes divide us, support the
decisions made by the people who bear the greatest responsibility for
them, the decisions made by one of the world's freest and most
Join us with hibat Tzion—Dedication to Israel--and a commitment to
klal yisrael, unity with the Jewish people. Join us with diversity,
with civility and love, and with the certainty that Israel will once
again not only survive but thrive.