March 21, 2013 – New York – AJC saluted President Obama’s address today to Israeli students in Jerusalem, in which he boldly and unequivocally set forth the firm U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, and identified with Israel’s quest for peace and normal relations with its neighbors.
“Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere,” said Obama. “Today, I want to tell you – particularly the young people – that so long as there is a United States of America, Ah-tem lo lah-vahd, you are not alone.”
The president expressed deep admiration for the Jewish people, appreciation for their history, and understanding of their link to the land of Israel. “For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations. It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice, pogroms and even genocide,” said Obama.
“Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home. And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea – to be a free people in your homeland.”
AJC Executive Director David Harris said: “President Obama couldn’t have been clearer in expressing his and America’s empathy for the Jewish story, our history, the challenges we continue to face, the ties to the land of Israel, and the critical vitality of the U.S.-Israel relationship.”
Obama conveyed a detailed understanding of Israel’s security challenges, and urged countries across the Middle East to engage with Israel. “Arab states must adapt to a world that has changed,” said Obama. “The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity or government corruption are over. Now is the time for the Arab world to take steps toward normalized relations with Israel.”
Obama, reaffirming the U.S.-supported goal of a negotiated two state-solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called on the Palestinians to return to direct talks with Israel and to “recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state, and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security.”
He praised Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as a partner for peace and warned, just hours after rockets landed in southern Israel from Gaza, that “Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”
Referring to Hamas and Hezbollah, and countries that support these terrorist organizations, “Israel is surrounded by many in this region who reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it,” said Obama. “That is why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important – because it can never be taken for granted.”
On the threat posed by an Iran with nuclear weapons capability, Obama reiterated his pledge that “all options are on the table” to prevent that from happening. “When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction,” said Obama.
“This is not simply a challenge for Israel – it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. It would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime, spark an arms race in a volatile region, and embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.”
Obama spoke extensively about the unbreakable U.S.-Israel bond. “In Israel we see values that we share,” said Obama.
“We have built a friendship that advances our shared interests,” said Obama. “Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa. Together, we share a focus on advancing economic growth around the globe, and strengthening the middle class within our countries. Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy.”