Nuclear Iran Counter to the Security Interests of the United States, Obama Says
President Obama walked onto the stage at the AIPAC conference to a standing ovation, thanking Congressional members in attendance and the delegates from Chicago.
“Tomorrow I’m very much looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation, back to the White House,” the President said.
Addressing the young people at AIPAC, the President said,”you carry with you an extraordinary legacy, more then six decades of friendship between the U.S. and Israel, and you have the opportunity and responsibility to make your own mark on the world.”
“For your inspiration,” the President said “look at my friend, Shimon Peres”.
Reminding the room that Peres was born in Poland, the President said the Israeli President has fought for the security and peace of Israel. He helped build the nation of today, the Jewish state of Israel. “He has also been a powerful moral voice,” the President said.
“I’m proud to announce that later this spring, I will invite President Peres to the White House to award him the Presidential Medal of freedom.”
“The United States and Israel share interests but we also share values,” said President Obama.
“Americas founding fathers understood this truth just as Israel’s founding generation did.”
Obama shifted gears toward his administration’s record on Israel, which the AIPAC crowd seemed to be split on, judging by the applause of previous comments by panelists discussing that very topic.
“As you examine my commitment, you just don’t have to count on my words, you can look at my deeds, because over the last 3 years as the President of the United States I have kept my commitments,” the President said.
“The fact is that my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented,” President Obama said, citing defense cooperation and economic assistance.
The U.S. has stood behind Israel diplomatically as well the President said. Intervening in Cairo to save Israeli diplomats, opposing the boycott of Israeli products and defending Israel at the United Nations are all examples of the current administration’s support of Israel, President Obama said.
“When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.”
Speaking about the potential for peace with the Palestinians, and his pursuit of such a goal, Obama said, “I make no apologies for pursuing peace. I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interests.”
“I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values,” the President said.
He also acknowledged the difficulty of achieving peace with a group that has divided leadership.
“The division within the Palestinian leadership makes it harder still,” he said, while citing Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“There is no doubt anywhere in the world that the United States will insist upon Israel’s right to existence and security,” said the President, using his administration’s support of Israel at the United Nation sin September of 2011.
Then came the part of the speech everyone in the room was waiting for.
“No Israeli government can tolerate a country having nuclear weapons that denies the holocaust,” President Obama said.
“A nuclear armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests but it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States.” This drew a standing ovation.
“Four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people” that America would use all means to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb.
The President spoke about the ability to get China and Russia to support international condemnations of Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
“Our policy of engagement, quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime, allowed us to rally the international community like never before.”
“Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision…or they can continue down a dead end.”
“Both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this issue resolved diplomatically,” the President said, but the onus is on the Iranians he continued.
“I have a deeply held preference for peace over war,” President Obama said.
“We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically, but having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States.”
“Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment, I have a policy of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” the President said.
“And as I have made clear time and again during my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force” to defend the U.S and it’s interest.
Asking the crowd to remind themselves of the stakes involved and “too much talk of war”, the President said “now is not the time for bluster” but “now is the time to heed the timeless advice of Teddy Roosevelt -speak softly, carry a big stick.”
The President said that while Israel and the U.S. may not agree on every issue, “we agree on the big things” and “together we are working together to build a better world.”
“If you want to know where my heart lies, look no further then what I have done”, the President said.