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March 4, 2013 12:28 pm

At AIPAC Conference, Senate Minority Whip Praises Israeli Democracy

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U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). Photo: United States Congress.

WASHINGTON, DC—Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) recalls a time when Ariel Sharon in 2001 was heckled by Arab legislators in the Knesset upon being elected prime minister of Israel, then heckled at the same venue a year later after a Palestinian suicide bombing killed 30 Israelis on Passover.

Addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference on Sunday, Cornyn asked the audience whether they could imagine Israeli legislators being able to heckle a Palestinian prime minister.

“Me neither,” Cornyn said, answering his own question.

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The fact that Israel, as a democracy unlike its Arab neighbors, “remains a country where Arabs can serve in parliament” and heckle the prime minister is at the heart of why an “overwhelming bipartisan consensus” is maintained in Congress in favor of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, in contrast to the “political football” played with other issues, according to Cornyn. Americans feel a “special kinship” with Israel because of shared values such as liberty and human rights, he said.

Cornyn met with Sharon on his first trip to Israel in 2002, and three years later the prime minister was behind Israel’s decision to unilaterally withdrew from Gaza, offering the Palestinians what Cornyn called a “test” to build political, cultural and civic institutions without Israeli interference.

Instead, Gaza has become a “terrorist haven run by Hamas” where children are “indoctrinated in a culture of death,” Cornyn said. Hamas will “never be reformed by dialogue or concessions,” he said.

The biggest obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace is not Israeli construction in the West Bank, Cornyn said.

“In reality, the biggest obstacle is the lack of a credible negotiating partner on the Palestinian side,” he said, saying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “continues to posture as a moderate, but is he really?” Cornyn noted that Abbas wrote a doctoral dissertation denying the Holocaust.

Regarding the Iranian nuclear threat, Cornyn said the U.S. needs to combine “debilitating sanctions with the credible threat of military action.”

“I find it deeply disturbing that the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism is so close to acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he said.

“In short, stopping the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons is not optional,” Cornyn added. “To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, there is no alternative.”

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