If you remember nothing else about my remarks tonight, I hope you will at least remember this: we need to hear from you back in Washington, individually and collectively through organizations such as AIPAC.
AIPAC has always been a terrific, effective advocate for the state of Israel and the American-Israel relationship, and its great work has tremendous impact on Capitol Hill today.
While the Administration plays a preeminent role in setting America’s foreign policy, the Congress plays a vital role, too, and AIPAC never loses sight of that fact.
Congress considers resolutions and legislation, exerts legislative pressure on the executive branch by appropriating or denying funding, and performs oversight hearings on the Administration’s implementation of foreign policy.
Just last week, for example, the House of Representatives considered a resolution condemning the terrorism inflicted on Israel since the Abaqa summit and expressing solidarity with the Israeli people in their fight against terrorism.
And immediately before that, the House considered another resolution that condemned the sharp escalation of anti-Semitic violence in European nations, and urged those states to undertake preventive measures.
It’s not simply coincidence that the Israel solidarity resolution passed by a vote of 399 to 5.
And it is a source of pride for all of us – Jew and Gentile alike – that the resolution condemning anti-Semitic violence passed by a unanimous vote of 412 to zero.
There is a clear recognition by the United States Congress that intolerance and repression anywhere threaten freedom and democracy everywhere.
The vote on the solidarity resolution is a tribute, first, to the effectiveness of Israel’s advocates in this country, and, second, to the long-standing, bipartisan commitment of the members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – to the special relationship between the United States and Israel.
“Let’s make clear,” President Kennedy stated forty-three years ago, “that we will never turn our back on our steadfast friends in Israel, whose adherence to the democratic way must be admired by all friends of freedom.”
Today, on behalf of the Democratic leadership team in the House of Representatives, I want to assure you that our commitment to this proud tradition is stronger than ever. And it is unwavering.
We must not delude ourselves: the United States of America has interests and allies throughout the Middle East, but it only has one true friend there – the state of Israel.
And let us be clear: our relationship is not a one-way street. The American-Israel relationship, based on conscience and principle, serves America’s national interests first and foremost.
That is why I have worked throughout my 34 years of public service to advocate for Israel and to foster a stronger U.S.-Israel relationship.
In August, for example, I am proud to be leading a delegation of Congressional Democrats to Israel, where our tentative schedule includes meetings with high public officials, including Prime Minister Sharon, Cabinet Ministers and Knesset members.
Also, last march, I was proud to join the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee (Henry Hyde), the ranking Democrat on the committee (Tom Lantos), and the Majority Whip (Roy Blunt) in circulating a letter signed by 325 members that urges President Bush to adhere to the principles he articulated one year ago concerning the on-going Israel-Palestinian crisis.
Above all, our letter states – and we continue to recognize today – that any road map for peace must require Palestinians to unconditionally cease the campaign of terror and violence against Israel.
This is a crucial moment in the Middle East.
There are signs of hope, but warnings of danger. The President’s national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, just ended two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
And Israeli troops withdrew from part of the gaza strip, and by the end of the week could withdraw from Bethlehem.
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the new Palestinian Prime Minister, is trying to solidify his leadership role by negotiating a temporary cease-fire among terrorist groups which refuse to recognize Israel’s inherent right to exist and which are dedicated to her destruction.
Despite the announcement over the weekend that these groups agreed to a truce, I believe, as President Bush recently stated, that words alone are not sufficient. They must be accompanied by action. The road map for peace offers hope. But we have been down this road before, and will not be blind to the past.
Organizations like Hamas, which preaches hate and death, must be dismantled for real peace to have a chance.
The Palestinian side must take responsibility for disarming these merchants of death. If it refuses or fails to do so, what alternative does Israel have but to defend herself like any other nation in the world?
The Bush Administration, in my view, is on the right track in trying to bring peace to this savaged region.
It is incumbent upon the United States, as well as the international community, to work with Israel and other states in the middle east to end this violence, to relieve the suffering of all peoples in the region, and to work toward a permanent and stable peace.
We must not shrink from our responsibility to stand for a just resolution of this conflict. We are the only nation in the world that both sides recognize as an honest broker.
We must avoid making muddled parallelisms between justified defensive actions and terrorist tactics that are designed only to inflame and destroy.
We must be willing to recognize the legitimate grievances and aspirations of the Palestinian people.
And we must leave no doubt that we are absolutely and irrevocably committed to the survival of Israel and its security and the safety of its people.
More than 50 years ago, David Ben Gurion recognized that we will ultimately be judged not by our wealth or military strength but by our moral worth and human values.
The U.S.-Israel relationship, based as it is on our shared values, shall endure. And I urge all of you to join the effort to keep this bond secure.
Thank you all for coming tonight. And thank you AIPAC for all that you do.