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Entries in Hillary Clinton (15)


US-Pakistan Negotiations: Hail to the General, No Room for Pakistani People

On Monday, I commented on recent negotiations happening in Afghanistan between President Karzai and representatives of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami militia. However, these aren't the only negotiations on the AfPak war taking place this week. National Public Radio reports:
Senior U.S. and Pakistani officials meet Thursday in Washington for the second round of a so-called strategic dialogue aimed at a better long-term relationship.

Few people expected any big breakthroughs in the first round of talks between the two sides Wednesday. The nations' complicated relationship has been marked by a deep sense of mutual distrust for many years. Still, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is hosting the two-day event, said some headway was made — especially on security.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi is meeting with Secretary Clinton, but he's not the real leader of the Pakistani delegation. Sue Pleming tells us who is:
Pakistan’s foreign minister heads his country’s delegation to Washington this week for high-level talks, but there was no mistaking who was the star at a reception at the Pakistani Embassy on Tuesday night: Army General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Guests crowded around Kayani at the annual Pakistani National Day party at the embassy, posing for photos and jostling for the military leader’s ear. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, also drew those eager for photographic souvenirs of the occasion, but not such a feeding frenzy as that around Kayani.

U.S. senators and Obama administration officials lined up to speak to the slim and dapper general, who Pakistani media say rules the roost back home but is also central to U.S. relations with Islamabad.

Our elected representatives are swooning over the Chief of the Pakistani Army, who supposedly "rules the roost back home". Great, another US-backed military dictator in Pakistan.

What about the civilian leaders? Our last pet general in Islamabad, Pervez Musharraf, was forced to resign and the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) were swept into power by popular vote in 2008. The PPP and PML-N formed a coalition government, with Yosaf Gillani as Prime Minister and Asif Ali Zardari as President. What happened to those guys?

As it turns out, they got to stay home and read the transcripts. UPI reports:
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in Islamabad Thursday that he was confident about the outcome of strategic talks with U.S. officials in Washington.

He said he would address the nation to highlight the developments after the end of the dialogue, Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reports.

Poor guy, he's got an electoral mandate and still all he gets to do is report back to the voters on what their own military leaders are up to in a foreign country.

But let's give Kayani the benefit of the doubt, maybe he's also looking out for Pakistani citizens. Mosharraf Zaidi explains for us:
Pakistan wants $400 million for Munda Dam, it wants $40 million for Gomal Zam Dam, it wants $70 million for the Natural Gas Production & Efficiency Project, it wants $10 million for Satpara Dam, it wants $27 million for the Wind Energy Project in Sindh, it wants $65 million to rehabilitate Mangla Dam, and it wants $35 million to upgrade Warsak Dam. Total cost of this dam wish-list? $647 million.

Wow, $650 million for water and energy projects, that Kayani sure seems like he's looking out for the Pakistani little guy. Only General Kayani wants more than just dams. Zaidi continues:
At roughly $40 million a pop, the still-pending delivery of 18 F-16 aircraft (from 2006) is a deal worth about $720 million. Instead of actually delivering these aircraft in June this year, as it plans to, the US government could tell the Pakistani government that it can choose. Either it can have a bunch of dams that will resolve the energy crisis, and save many hundreds, maybe thousands of lives in hospitals and clinics around the country. Or it can have a bunch of airplanes that are designed to kill people rather indiscriminately (meaning that not all of the victims of Pakistan’s F-16s will be terrorists that have been tried and convicted in a court of law).

As a Pakistani, my vote is for the dams. I suspect I wouldn’t be alone. But of course, the people of Pakistan don’t have very much say in the direction that Pakistan’s strategic dialogue takes in Washington DC.

While Kayani wants dams and jets, the people apparently just want the dams. Only the people aren't represented at the talks.

That wouldn't be so bad if Pakistan actually did get both the energy projects and the military weapons. But they won't be getting both. Amazingly, General Kayani, head of the Pakistani Army, will only get the military weapons, and probably not much on the civilian, infrastructure side. Remember that Secretary Clinton's statement above emphasized progress in security (that means items like drones and fighter jets) but cautioned against too much optimism on anything else.

See, General Kayani has a bit of a problem with militarism. Even when the Pakistani people overwhelmingly support representatives like Zardari and Gillani who seek peace, Kayani can't stop thinking about war, war, war. Praveen Swami writes:
“India,” Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari famously said in an October 2008 interview, “has never been a threat to Pakistan.” In his first major interview, given just a month after taking office, he described jihadists in Jammu and Kashmir as “terrorists.” He imagined “Pakistani cement factories being constructed to provide for India's huge infrastructure needs, Pakistani textile mills meeting Indian demand for blue jeans, Pakistani ports being used to relieve the congestion at Indian ones.”

Early last month, Pakistan's army chief, General Pervez Ashfaq Kayani, outlined a rather different vision. In a presentation to the media, he asserted that the Pakistan army was an “India-centric institution,” adding this “reality will not change in any significant way until the Kashmir issue and water disputes are resolved.” His words were not dissimilar in substance from the language used by jihadists such as Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed in recent speeches.

It's no surprise that Kayani and Lashkar-e-Taiba sound the same, since the LeT are supported by the Pakistani Army and the ISI. The US supports Kayani who supports the LeT, because both Kayani and the LeT are batshit crazy for war with India. We know this already. Even Congress knows it, since Ashley J. Tellis explained it to them a few weeks ago:
While it is, therefore, tempting to treat LeT as the cause of the current crisis in Indo-Pakistani relations --- particularly in the aftermath of the Bombay attacks --- it should instead be understood as a manifestation. The real cause of the problems in Indo-Pakistani relations remains those political forces within Pakistan that profit from continued hostility with India, namely the Pakistani Army, ...the ISI, and their narrow bases of support among the general population. The civilian government in Pakistan...has a very different view of the bilateral relationship.... Cognizant of the fact that Pakistan will never be able to favorably resolve its disputes with India through force, Zardari has sought a non-confrontational affiliation with New Delhi that would set aside existing disputes, if not resolve them, while increasing economic opportunities....

Unfortunately...Zardari and his civilian cohort do not make national security policy in Islamabad. All such matters...remain very much the provenance of the Pakistani Army....[T]he necessity of sapping India’s strength through multiple kinds of warfare—economic closure, terrorist attacks, and nuclear competition—remains deeply entrenched in the Pakistani military psyche.

Echoing the cliche that the US hasn't picked a winning side since Churchill, America is pursuing its goals of economic cooperation, encouraging democracy, and counter-terrorism in Pakistan by supporting the military dictator who uses terrorists to fuel conflict with his neighbors. Great plan!

But now we're lost on some tangent about Lashkar-e-Taiba and F-16s. Let's not forget what this is all about: the US war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISAF and the Pakistani military are daily blasting away at Pashtun insurgents, Taliban elements in both Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan, from the Northwest Frontier Province all the way down to Balochistan. This is the so-called "Pashtun belt". Surely any Strategic Dialogue on this conflict must include the Pashtun themselves. Nope. Shahid Ilyas writes:
Talking is not a bad thing, but when it is done without the participation of those who are the subject of such talks, it will most likely result in a disaster. The Pakhtun and the turmoil on their lands — supposedly the theme of the dialogue — are reportedly not being represented in the upcoming Pak-US strategic dialogue. The delegation heading for the US does not include either the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) led by Mahmud Khan Achakzai or the Awami National Party (ANP) led by Asfandyar Wali. These are the mainstream political parties of Pakhtunkhwa having a deep bearing on the events of their ethnic constituency. These parties represent the most influential and educated class of Pakhtun society. What benefit can a dialogue bring without the participation of the Pakhtun leadership and intelligentsia?

If indeed the purpose of the dialogue is the ongoing terrorism-related turmoil in Pakhtunkhwa, it can only be counterproductive without the participation of the Pakhtuns. Already, the prevailing thinking among them is that they are being ruled like a colony by the Punjab-dominated establishment in Rawalpindi-Islamabad. The Pakhtuns are increasingly complaining that the American opinion of them is formed by the establishment in Islamabad and Rawalpindi. They argue that under a well thought-out strategy, they are being presented to the world as terrorists through the media. The planned strategic dialogue without them will only reinforce their belief in their (perceived or real) exploitation by the bigger province. An added factor now will be that they will consider the US a co-culprit, responsible for their sufferings.

So, let's add this all up.

  • The people of Pakistan, who support peace, are not represented at the Strategic Dialogue.

  • The Pashtun people, with whom the US and Pakistani military are engaged in violent conflict, are not represented at the Strategic Dialogue.

  • The US instead deals with General Kayani, un-elected warmonger obsessed with fighting India.

  • The US earnestly gives in to Kayani's demands for more military weapons, but wavers on support for civilian water and energy projects.

  • In addition to the Taliban and other militant groups, Kayani's military supports LeT, the al-Qa'eda affiliated group who carried out the Mumbai commando attacks, among countless other terrorist attacks against Indian and Pakistani citizens.

The whole Strategic Dialogue is a farce. We're not accomplishing any of our national security goals in the region, we're actually making our problems worse! But what are you supposed to do about this? Well, that's the good news: unlike the Pakistani people, ou actually are represented at this strategic dialogue. Let's go back to Tuesday's embassy party:
U.S. senators and Obama administration officials lined up to speak to the slim and dapper general, who Pakistani media say rules the roost back home but is also central to U.S. relations with Islamabad.

Senators and administration officials? Those are your elected representatives! You have a voice in this Strategic Dialogue. You can tell them how they need to be conducting this dialogue, and who they need to be conducting it with.

Tell them that celebrity they're snapping photos of with their cellphone is actually a terror-supporting thug, and they can read about it in their own Congressional Record. Tell them you want to talk to the actual leaders of the Pakistani people, the democratically elected government of Pakistan, as well as the Pashtun people. We can talk about water and energy projects, but not military weapons to be used against India and the Pakistanis themselves.

Don't forfeit your own opportunity to have a voice in this strategic dialogue. Congress, in particular has the power to stipulate how funds can be distributed in Pakistan, as we saw with the Kerry-Lugar bill last year. Contact your representatives, by e-mail, phone, Twitter, however you want. Show them that even if Pakistan is ruled by the military, democracy is alive and well in the US. Demand that the US engages in strategic dialogue with the peace makers and legitimate leaders in Pakistan. The current dialogue, as it stands, is totally unacceptable.

I am the Afghanistan Blogging Fellow for The Seminal and Brave New Foundation. You can read my work on The Seminal or at Rethink Afghanistan.

Middle East Therapy: Why You Are Not Necessarily "Anti-Israel" (Wright)

Robert Wright writes for The New York Times:

Are you anti-Israel? If you fear that, deep down, you might be, I have important news. The recent tension between Israel and the United States led various commentators to identify hallmarks of anti-Israelism, and these may be of diagnostic value.

Israel Special: Obama-Netanyahu Meeting and the Settlement “Surprise”

As you’ll see, my own view is that they aren’t of much value, but I’ll leave it for you to judge.

Symptom no. 1: Believing that Israel shouldn’t build more settlements in East Jerusalem.

President Obama holds this belief, and that seems to be the reason that Gary Bauer, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, deems Obama’s administration “the most anti-Israel administration in U.S. history.” Bauer notes that the East Jerusalem settlements are “entirely within the city of Jerusalem” and that Jerusalem is “the capital of Israel.”

That’s artful wording, but it doesn’t change the fact that East Jerusalem, far from being part of “the capital of Israel,” isn’t even part of Israel. East Jerusalem lies beyond Israel’s internationally recognized, pre-1967 borders. And the common assertion that Israel “annexed” East Jerusalem has roughly the same legal significance as my announcing that I’ve annexed my neighbor’s backyard. In 1980 the United Nations explicitly rejected Israel’s claim to possess East Jerusalem. And the United States, which normally vetoes U.N. resolutions that Israel finds threatening, chose not to do so in this case.

In short, accepting Gary Bauer’s idea of what it means to be anti-Israel seems to involve being anti-truth. So I don’t accept it. (And if you’re tempted to accept the common claim that Israel is building only in “traditionally Jewish” parts of East Jerusalem, a good antidote is this piece by Lara Friedman and Daniel Seidemann, published on Foreign Policy Magazine’s excellent new Middle East Channel.)

Symptom no. 2: Thinking that some of Israel’s policies, and America’s perceived support of them, might endanger American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (by, for example, giving Jihadist recruiters rhetorical ammunition). This concern was reportedly expressed last week by Vice President Joe Biden to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. And General David Petraeus is said to worry about the threat posed to American troops — and to America’s whole strategic situation — by the perception of American favoritism toward Israel.

Identifying threats to American troops is part of a general’s job, and it seems to me Petraeus could honestly conclude — without help from dark “anti-Israel” impulses — that some of those threats are heightened by the Israel-Palestine conflict and America’s relationship to it. But Max Boot, writing on Commentary’s Web site, seems to disagree; if Petraeus indeed holds such opinions, that’s a sign of “anti-Israel sentiment,” in Boot’s view.

Now, for a lionized American general to even hint that America’s stance toward Israel might threaten American troops is a serious public relations problem for Boot’s ideology. That, presumably, is why Boot tries to show that this “anti-Israel” view, though attributed to Petraeus, is not in fact Petraeus’s view. Specifically, Boot aims to discredit journalists who attributed this quotation to Petraeus: “The [Israel-Palestine] conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel … . Meanwhile, Al Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.”

Boot assures us that this passage, far from being a good guide to Petraeus’s thinking, was just “pulled from the 56-page Central Command ‘Posture Statement’ filed by his staff with the Senate Armed Services Committee”. Well, I don’t know who did the filing, but the document itself is titled “Statement of General David H. Petraeus … Before the Senate Armed Services Committee.” So I’m guessing it’s a fair guide to his views — in which case, by Boot’s lights, Petraeus is anti-Israel, right? And in which case I’ll reject Boot’s criterion for anti-Israelism.

Boot has an ally in Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman said the perspective attributed to Biden and Petraeus “smacks of blaming Jews for everything.”

Foxman’s claim may seem hyperbolic, but look at it this way: If he can convince us that blaming any Israeli policy for anything is akin to blaming Jews in general for everything, then anyone who criticizes an Israeli policy will be deemed anti-Semitic — and fear of that label will keep everyone from criticizing Israel. And by virtue of never criticizing Israel, we’ll all be “pro-Israel.” And that’s a good thing, right?

Actually, it seems to me that if we were all “pro-Israel” in this sense, that would be bad for Israel.

If Israel’s increasingly powerful right wing has its way, without constraint from American criticism and pressure, then Israel will keep building settlements. And the more settlements get built —especially in East Jerusalem — the harder it will be to find a two-state deal that leaves Palestinians with much of their dignity intact. And the less dignity intact, the less stable any two-state deal will be.

As more and more people are realizing, the only long-run alternatives to a two-state solution are: a) a one-state solution in which an Arab majority spells the end of Israel’s Jewish identity; b) Israel’s remaining a Jewish state by denying the vote to Palestinians who live in the occupied territories, a condition that would be increasingly reminiscent of apartheid; c) the apocalypse. Or, as Hillary Clinton put it in addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference on Monday: “A two-state solution is the only viable path for Israel to remain both a democracy and a Jewish state.”

So, by my lights, being “pro-Israel” in the sense embraced by Bauer, Boot and Foxman — backing Israel’s current policies, including its settlement policies — is actually anti-Israel. It’s also anti-America (in the sense of ‘bad for American security’), because Biden and Petraeus are right: America’s perceived support of — or at least acquiescence in — Israel’s more inflammatory policies endangers American troops abroad. In the long run, it will also endanger American civilians at home, funneling more terrorism in their direction.

The flip side of this coin is that policies that would be truly good for Israel (e.g., no more settlements) would be good for America. In that sense, there’s good news for Bauer and Boot and Foxman: one of their common refrains — that Israel’s and America’s interests are essentially aligned — is true, if for reasons they don’t appreciate.

Sadly, the Bauer-Boot-Foxman definition of “pro-Israel” — supporting Israel’s increasingly hard-line and self-destructive policies — is the official definition. All major American newspapers, so far as I can see, use the term this way. AIPAC is described as “pro-Israel”, but the left-of-AIPAC J Street isn’t, even though its members, like AIPAC’s, favor policies they consider good for Israel.

No doubt this twisted use of “pro-Israel”, and the implied definition of “anti-Israel”, keeps many critics of Israeli policies from speaking out — Jewish critics for fear of seeming disloyal, and non-Jewish critics for fear of seeming anti-Semitic.

So, if I’m right, and more speaking out — more criticism of Israel’s current policies — would actually be good for Israel, then the newspapers and other media outlets that sustain the prevailing usage of “pro-Israel” are, in fact, anti-Israel. I won’t mention any names.

Postscript: It has been reported that, notwithstanding accounts in Israel’s media, Biden did not, in fact, complain to Netanyahu in private about the threat of Israel’s policies to American troops. Perhaps predictably, the journalist who first reported this is the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been described by one New York Times columnist as Netanyahu’s “faithful stenographer.” I don’t doubt that Goldberg found an administration source who downplayed Biden’s remarks to Netanyahu; obviously, once tensions started to subside, and the goal of both America and Israel was to smooth relations, it wasn’t going to be hard to find an administration official who would do that, regardless of the truth about what Biden said. So I attach little significance to the administration’s revisionist account of what transpired between Biden and Netanyahu — especially given the heat the administration no doubt took over the original account of what transpired.

The Latest from Iran (22 March): The Economic Clash

2100 GMT: Connection of Day --- Baghi's Detention and the "Killing" of Khomeini's Son. Fatemeh Kamali, the wife of the detained journalist Emadeddin Baghi, in an interview with Iranian Students News Agency, said: "The main charge held against him is that he believed that the death of Seyed Ahmad Khomeini was suspicious." (Ahmad Khomeini, the son of Imam Khomeini, died in 1995,allegedly from a heart attack. There have always been rumours of foul play,however; Khomeini had criticised the regime a month before his demise.)

Kamali produced a letter from Seyed Hassan Khomeini, Ahmad’s son, to Baghi which mentions that a Mr. Niazi, the head of judiciary for Iran's armed force, has confirmed the existence of some evidence of the murder of Ahmad Khomeini.

2045 GMT: Yes, This Parliament v. President Thing is Real. Mehr News Agency's English-language site puts out a summary, but the news is clear: Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani (see 1450 GMT) and his Parliamentary allies are not going to give way on President Ahmadinejad's demand for a reconsideration of their decision on his subsidy reform and spending plans.

NEW Iran Analysis: Politics and Subsidy Reform (Harris)

NEW Iran: View from Tehran “Changes within the System are Impossible”

Latest Iran Election Video: Nowruz and the Green Movement

Iran Snap Analysis: A Rights-First Approach in Washington?

Iran Video and Summary: Karroubi’s New Year Message

The Latest from Iran (21 March): Happy New Year, Mr Ahmadinejad

2030 GMT: Back from a long academic break to post the full video and transcript of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Included are remarks on Iran's threat to the Middle East and its nuclear programme.

1450 GMT: Larijani Stands Firm. Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani has pointedly rejected President Ahmadinejad's call for a national referendum on the proposed subsidies reductions and spending. Larijani said that Ahmadinejad had been authorised to spend $20 billion extra from the savings from the reductions, and he would not get any more. The Parliament's decision was not up for revision.

1440 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. A reliable EA source confirms that Hasan Lahouti, the grandson of Hashemi Rafsanjani and son of Faezeh Hashemi, was arrested by Iranian authorities at Imam Khomeini airport this morning. While the story broke in Fars, which has been known to post disinformation, it is also being carried in Tabnak and Alef.

Lahouti, who is studying at a British university, was returning to Iran for the Nowruz holidays when he was detained. There has been no comment from Rafsanjani or Faezeh Hashemi.

A few weeks ago, Lahouti was interviewed by BBC Persian, and he criticised the Government's harassment of his mother and grandfather. There is also speculation that Lahouti may have been arrested to put pressure on Mehdi Hashemi, Rafsanjani's son, to return to Iran. Mehdi Hashemi, who was named by Government prosecutors in the Tehran trials as culpable for election manipulation and misuse of funds, remains in Britain --- he has not been to Iran since last summer.

1430 GMT: Economy Watch. We've just posted a new analysis by Kevan Harris of "Politics and Subsidy Reform".

1250 GMT: Communications Battles. Fulfilling an initiative that we noted last week, European Union foreign ministers have declared, "The European Union expresses its grave concern over measures taken by the Iranian authorities to prevent its citizens from freely communicating and receiving information through TV, radio satellite broadcasting and the Internet. The EU is determined to pursue these issues and to act with a view to put an end to this unacceptable situation."

What that action might be was left undefined.

1140 GMT: Holding the Line. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's office is briefing the press that she will tell the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that the US "is taking time to produce these sanctions [against Iran]... but we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these weapons".

The surprise here is not Clinton's insistence on "sanctions that will bite" as "the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons". She has to say this, given the tightrope the US is walking in trying to get the Israeli Government to make a commitment to talks over Palestine.

The surprise is that she is not offering the prospects of tougher sanctions in the near-future: is that because of difficulties in getting international acceptance or because the Obama Administration does not think sanctions --- at least the sweeping version proposed in the US Congress --- are an optimal way of dealing with Tehran?

1120 GMT: Rafsanjani Watch. Fars News is claiming that Iranian authorities have detained the grandson of Hashemi Rafsanjani. Hasan Lahouti was allegedly arrested in Tehran airport upon arrival from London late Sunday.

0750 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Student Mehdi Kalari has been released from Evin Prison, reportedly after a protest by 2000 candidates at Sharif University last week against the detention of three classmates.

0720 GMT: In Case You're Still Wondering. Continued coverage in media of Ayatollah Khamenei's blasting of the US in his Nowruz speech in Mashhad. Press TV gives the state line: "Sometimes the US government appears as a wolf or a fox and looks violent and arrogant, and sometimes they look different."

For a different perspective, see the video we have just posted of chanting during Khamenei's speech.

0700 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. It is reported that Mohammad Davari, the imprisoned editor-in-chief of Mehdi Karroubi’s website Saham News, has gone on hunger strike.

Davari was arrested at Karroubi’s office on 8 September. Recently he was moved to solitary confinement, allegedly after complaining about harsh prison conditions during a visit by a Deputy Minister of Intelligence. He went on hunger strike a week ago.

0500 GMT: We begin the morning with a special from inside Iran. The friend of a top EA source has written from the Iranian capital to report on the latest political situation: resistance is alive, the Supreme Leader's "honour is broken", and sanctions are necessary.

Elsewhere, we are watching the ongoing Parliament-President battle over the budget, subsidy reform, and revenues. After three leading members of Parliament --- Tavakkoli, Naderan and Mesbahi Moghaddam --- declared Ahmadinejad's suggestion of a referendum is a defiance of the Majlis' authority and the Constitution. Mohammad-Nabi Habibi, the head of the Motalefeh Party, insisted that Ahmadinejad should obey the Majlis and there was no need for a referendum, while another observer noted that if the President wanted a public vote on the budget, there should also be one on his Government.

Economist Fereydoun Khavand, who is based in Paris, assesses that there is an unprecedented turmoil in economic policies, with the fight over the subsidies and possible 50-60% inflation.


Full Video and Transcript: Secretary of State Clinton at AIPAC Conference (22 March)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The video is in 5 parts, placed amidst the transcript of the speech as delivered:

Transcript: Benjamin Netanyahu’s Speech to AIPAC Conference (22 March)

Thank you. Thank you for that welcome. And it is wonderful to be back at AIPAC with so many good friends. I saw a number of them backstage before coming out, and I can assure you that I received a lot of advice. (Laughter.) I know I always do when I see my friends from AIPAC. And I want to thank Lee Rosenberg for that introduction. And congratulations, Rosy; you're going to be a terrific president. (Applause.) I also want to thank David Victor and Howard Kohr and Lonny Kaplan and J.B. Pritzker and Howard Friedman and Ester Kurz and Richard Fishman -- and I'd better stop - but all of AIPAC's directors and staff for your leadership and hard work. And I'm very pleased that you will be hearing from a good friend of mine, Congressman Jim Langevin, a great champion for Israel. And let's hear it for Jim. (Applause.)

And to all of you, all of AIPAC's members, thank you once again for your example of citizen activism. Petitioning your government, expressing your views, speaking up in the arena - this is what democracy is all about. (Applause.) And I am particularly pleased to see that there are, once again, so many young people here. (Applause.) You recognize that your future and the future of our country are bound up with the future of Israel. (Applause.) And your engagement today will help to make that future more secure.

Given the shared challenges we face, the relationship between the United States and Israel has never been more important. (Applause.) The United States has long recognized that a strong and secure Israel is vital to our own strategic interests. (Applause.) And we know that the forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States of America. (Applause.) And therefore, we firmly believe that when we strengthen Israel's security, we strengthen America's security. (Applause.)

So from its first day, the Obama Administration has worked to promote Israel's security and long-term success. And if you ever doubt the resolve of President Obama to stay with a job, look at what we got done for the United States last night when it came to passing quality affordable healthcare for everyone. (Applause.) And we know that, as Vice President Biden said in Israel recently, to make progress in this region, there must be no gap between the United States and Israel on security. (Applause.) And let me assure you, as I have assured you on previous occasions with large groups like this and small intimate settings, for President Obama and for me, and for this entire Administration, our commitment to Israel's security and Israel's future is rock solid, unwavering, enduring, and forever. (Applause.)

And why is that? Why is that? Is it because AIPAC can put 7,500 people into a room in the Convention Center? I don't think so. Is it because some of the most active Americans in politics and who care about our government also care about Israel? That's not the explanation. Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values of freedom, equality, democracy, the right to live free from fear, and our common aspirations for a future of peace, security and prosperity, where we can see our children and our children's children, should we be so lucky - and as a future mother of the bride, I'm certainly hoping for that - (applause) - to see those children, those generations come of age in peace, with the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potentials.

Americans honor Israel as a homeland for a people too long oppressed and a democracy that has had to defend itself at every turn, a dream nurtured for generations and made real by men and women who refused to bow to the toughest of odds. In Israel's story, we see our own. We see, in fact, the story of all people who struggle for freedom and the right to chart their own destinies.

That's why it took President Harry Truman only 11 minutes to recognize the new nation of Israel - (applause) - and ever since, our two countries have stood in solidarity. So guaranteeing Israel's security is more than a policy position for me; it is a personal commitment that will never waver. (Applause.)

Since my first visit to Israel nearly 30 years ago, I have returned many times and made many friends. I've had the privilege of working with some of Israel's great leaders and have benefited from their wise counsel. I may have even caused some of them consternation - I don't think Yitzhak Rabin ever forgave me for banishing him to the White House balcony when he wanted to smoke. (Laughter.) And over the years, I have shared your pride in seeing the desert bloom, the economy thrive, and the country flourish. But I have also seen the struggles and the sorrows. I have met with the victims of terrorism, in their hospital rooms I've held their hands, I've listened to the doctors describe how much shrapnel was left in a leg, an arm, or a head. I sat there and listened to the heart-rending words that Prime Minister Rabin's granddaughter Noa spoke at her grandfather's funeral. I went to a bombed-out pizzeria in Jerusalem. I've seen the looks on the faces of Israeli families who knew a rocket could fall at any moment.

On one of my visits, in 2002, I met a young man named Yochai Porat. He was only 26, but he was already a senior medic with MDA and he oversaw a program to train foreign volunteers as first responders in Israel. I attended the program's graduation ceremonies and I saw the pride in his face as yet another group of young people set off to do good and save lives. Yochai was also a reservist with the IDF. And a week after we met, he was killed by a sniper near a roadblock, along with other soldiers and civilians. MDA renamed the overseas volunteer program in his memory and it has continued to flourish. When I was there in 2005, I met with his family. His parents were committed to continuing to support MDA and its mission - and so was I. That's why I spent years urging the International Red Cross, introducing legislation, rounding up votes to send a message to Geneva to admit MDA as a full voting member. And finally, with your help - (applause) in 2006, we succeeded in righting that wrong. (Applause.)

As a senator from New York, I was proud to be a strong voice for Israel in the Congress and around the world. And I am proud that I can continue to be that strong voice as Secretary of State.

Last fall, I stood next to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem and praised his government's decision to place a moratorium on new residential construction in the West Bank. And then I praised it again in Cairo and in Marrakesh and in many places far from Jerusalem to make clear that this was a first step, but it was an important first step. And yes, I underscored the longstanding American policy that does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlements. As Israel's friend, it is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed.

In 2008, I told this conference that Barack Obama would be a good friend to Israel as president, that he would have a special appreciation of Israel because of his own personal history - a grandfather who fought the Nazis in Patton's Army, a great-uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald. President Obama and his family have lived the Diaspora experience. And as he told you himself, he understands that there is always a homeland at the center of our story. As a senator, he visited Israel and met families whose houses were destroyed by rockets. And as President, he has supported Israel in word and in deed.

Under President Obama's leadership, we have reinvigorated defense consultations, redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel's qualitative military edge, and provided nearly $3 billion in annual military assistance. (Applause.) In fact, as Rosy told you - or maybe it was Howard - that assistance increased in 2010 and we have requested another increase for 2011. (Applause.) And something else I want you to know, more than 1,000 United States troops participated in the Juniper Cobra ballistic missile defense exercises last fall, the largest such drill ever held. (Applause.) President Obama has made achieving peace and recognized secure borders for Israel a top Administration priority.

The United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitisms and efforts to challenge Israel's legitimacy. We did lead the boycott of the Durban Conference and we repeatedly voted against the deeply flawed Goldstone Report. (Applause.) This Administration will always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself. (Applause.)

And for Israel, there is no greater strategic threat than the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. (Applause.) Elements in Iran's government have become a menace, both to their own people and in the region. Iran's president foments anti-Semitism, denies the Holocaust, threatens to destroy Israel, even denies that 9/11 was an attack. The Iranian leadership funds and arms terrorists who have murdered Americans, Israelis, and other innocent people alike. And it has waged a campaign of intimidation and persecution against the Iranian people.

Last June, Iranians marching silently were beaten with batons. Political prisoners were rounded up and abused. Absurd and false allegations and accusations were leveled against the United States, Israel, and the West. People everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman shot dead in the street. The Iranian leadership denies its people rights that are universal to all human beings, including the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear, the right to the equal administration of justice, to express your views without facing retribution.

In addition to threatening Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran would embolden its terrorist clientele and would spark an arms race that could destabilize the region. This is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the United States. It is unacceptable to Israel. It is unacceptable to the region and the international community. So let me be very clear: The United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

Now, for most of the past decade, the United States, as you know, declined to engage with Iran. And Iran grew more, not less, dangerous. It built thousands of centrifuges and spurned the international community. But it faced few consequences. President Obama has been trying a different course, designed to present Iran's leaders with a clear choice. We've made extensive efforts to reengage with Iran, both through direct communication and working with other partners multilaterally, to send an unmistakable message: Uphold your international obligations. And if you do, you will reap the benefits of normal relations. If you do not, you will face increased isolation and painful consequences.

We took this course with the understanding that the very effort of seeking engagement would strengthen our hand if Iran rejected our initiative. And over the last year, Iran's leaders have been stripped of their usual excuses. The world has seen that it is Iran, not the United States, responsible for the impasse.

With its secret nuclear facilities, increasing violations of its obligations under the nonproliferation regime, and an unjustified expansion of its enrichment activities, more and more nations are finally expressing deep concerns about Iran's intentions. And there is a growing international consensus on taking steps to pressure Iran's leaders to change course. Europe is in agreement. Russia, where I just returned from, has moved definitely in this direction. And although there is still work to be done, China has said it supports the dual-track approach of applying pressure if engagement does not produce results. This stronger consensus has also led to increased cooperation on stopping arms shipments and financial transactions that aid terrorists, threaten Israel, and destabilize the region.

We are now working with our partners in the United Nations on new Security Council sanctions that will show Iran's leaders that there are real consequences for their intransigence, that their choice is to live up to their international obligations. Our aim is not incremental sanctions, but sanctions that will bite. It is taking time to produce these sanctions, and we believe that time is a worthwhile investment for winning the broadest possible support for our efforts. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring these nuclear weapons. (Applause.)

But Iran is not the only threat on the horizon. Israel today is confronting some of the toughest challenges in her history. The conflict with the Palestinians and with Israel's Arab neighbors is an obstacle to prosperity and opportunity for Israelis, Palestinians, and people across the region. But it also threatens Israel's long-term future as a secure and democratic Jewish state.

The status quo is unsustainable for all sides. It promises only more violence and unrealized aspirations. Staying on this course means continuing a conflict that carries tragic human costs. Israeli and Palestinian children alike deserve to grow up free from fear and to have that same opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential. (Applause.)

There is another path, a path that leads toward security and prosperity for Israel, the Palestinians, and all the people of the region. But it will require all parties, including Israel, to make difficult but necessary choices. Both sides must confront the reality that the status quo of the last decade has not produced long-term security or served their interests. Nor has it served the interests of the United States. It is true that heightened security measures have reduced the number of suicide bombings and given some protection and safety to those who worry every day when their child goes to school, their husband goes to work, their mother goes to market. And there is, I think, a belief among many that the status quo can be sustained. But the dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology make this impossible.

First, we cannot ignore the long-term population trends that result from the Israeli occupation. As Defense Minister Barak and others have observed, the inexorable mathematics of democracy - of demography are hastening the hour at which Israelis may have to choose between preserving their democracy and staying true to the dream of a Jewish homeland. Given this reality, a two-state solution is the only viable path for Israel to remain both a democracy and a Jewish state. (Applause.)

Second, we cannot be blind to the political implications of continued conflict. There is today truly a struggle, maybe for the first time, between those in the region who accept peace and coexistence with Israel and those who reject it and seek only continued violence. The status quo strengthens the rejectionists who claim peace is impossible, and it weakens those who would accept coexistence. That does not serve Israel's interests or our own. Those willing to negotiate need to be able to show results for their efforts. And those who preach violence must be proven wrong. All of our regional challenges - confronting the threat posed by Iran, combating violent extremism, promoting democracy and economic opportunity - become harder if the rejectionists grow in power and influence.

Conversely, a two-state solution would allow Israel's contributions to the world and to our greater humanity to get the recognition they deserve. It would also allow the Palestinians to have to govern to realize their own legitimate aspirations. And it would undermine the appeal of extremism across the region.

I was very privileged as First Lady to travel the world on behalf of our country. I went from Latin America to Southeast Asia. And during the 1990s, it was rare that people in places far from the Middle East ever mentioned the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, when I started traveling as Secretary of State and I went to places that were so far from the Middle East, it was the first, second, or third issue that countries raised. We cannot escape the impact of mass communications. We cannot control the images and the messages that are conveyed. We can only change the facts on the ground that refute the claims of the rejectionists and extremists, and in so doing create the circumstances for a safe, secure future for Israel. (Applause.)

And then finally, we must recognize that the ever-evolving technology of war is making it harder to guarantee Israel's security. For six decades, Israelis have guarded their borders vigilantly. But advances in rocket technology mean that Israeli families are now at risk far from those borders. Despite efforts at containment, rockets with better guidance systems, longer range, and more destructive power are spreading across the region. Hezbollah has amassed tens of thousands of rockets on Israel's northern border. Hamas has a substantial number in Gaza. And even if some of these are still crude, they all pose a serious danger, as we saw again last week.

Our message to Hamas is clear: Renounce violence, recognize Israel, and abide by previous signed agreements. (Applause.) That is the only path to participation in negotiations. They do not earn a place at any table absent those changes. (Applause.) And I will repeat today what I have said many times before: Gilad Shalit must be released immediately and returned to his family. (Applause.)

Unfortunately, neither military action nor restricting access into and out of Gaza has significantly stemmed the flow of rockets to Hamas. They appear content to add to their stockpile and grow rich off the tunnel trade, while the people of Gaza fall deeper into poverty and despair; that is also not a sustainable position for either Israelis or Palestinians.

Behind these terrorist organizations and their rockets, we see the destabilizing influence of Iran. Now, reaching a two-state solution will not end all these threats - you and I know that - (applause) - but failure to do so gives the extremist foes a pretext to spread violence, instability, and hatred.

In the face of these unforgiving dynamics of demography, ideology, and technology, it becomes impossible to entrust our hopes for Israel's future in today's status quo. These challenges cannot be ignored or wished away. Only by choosing a new path can Israel make the progress it deserves to ensure that their children are able to see a future of peace, and only by having a partner willing to participate with them will the Palestinians be able to see the same future.

Now, there is for many of us a clear goal: two states for two peoples living side by side in peace and security, with peace between Israel and Syria, and Israel and Lebanon, and normal relations between Israel and all the Arab states. (Applause.) A comprehensive peace that is real, not a slogan, that is rooted in genuine recognition of Israel's right to exist in peace and security, and that offers the best way to ensure Israel's enduring survival and well-being. That is the goal that the Obama Administration is determined to help Israel and the Palestinians achieve.

George Mitchell has worked tirelessly with the parties to prepare the ground for the resumption of direct negotiations, beginning with the proximity talks both sides have accepted. These proximity talks are a hopeful first step, and they should be serious and substantive. But ultimately, of course, it will take direct negotiations between the parties to work through all the issues and end the conflict.

The United States stands ready to play an active and sustained role in these talks, and to support the parties as they work to resolve permanent status issues including security, borders, refugees, and Jerusalem. The United States knows we cannot force a solution. We cannot ordain or command the outcome. The parties themselves must resolve their differences.

But, we believe - (applause) - we believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the '67 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel's goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel's security requirements. (Applause.)

And the United States recognizes that Jerusalem - Jerusalem is a deeply, profoundly important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.

But for negotiations to be successful, they must be built on a foundation of mutual trust and confidence. That is why both Israelis and Palestinians must refrain from unilateral statements and actions that undermine the process or prejudice the outcome of talks.

When a Hamas-controlled municipality glorifies violence and renames a square after a terrorist who murdered innocent Israelis, it insults the families on both sides who have lost loves ones over the years in this conflict. (Applause.) And when instigators deliberately mischaracterize the rededication of a synagogue in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem's old city and call upon their brethren to "defend" nearby Muslim holy sites from so-called "attacks," it is purely and simply an act of incitement. (Applause.)

These provocations are wrong and must be condemned for needlessly inflaming tensions and imperiling prospects for a comprehensive peace.

It is our devotion to this outcome - two states for two peoples, secure and at peace - that led us to condemn the announcement of plans for new construction in East Jerusalem. This was not about wounded pride. Nor is it a judgment on the final status of Jerusalem, which is an issue to be settled at the negotiating table. This is about getting to the table, creating and protecting an atmosphere of trust around it - and staying there until the job is finally done. (Applause.)

New construction in East Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines that mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides say want and need. And it exposes daylight between Israel and the United States that others in the region hope to exploit. It undermines America's unique ability to play a role - an essential role - in the peace process. Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don't agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally.

We objected to this announcement because we are committed to Israel and its security, which we believe depends on a comprehensive peace, because we are determined to keep moving forward along a path that ensures Israel's future as a secure and democratic Jewish state living in peace with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, and because we do not want to see the progress that has been made in any way endangered.

When Prime Minister Netanyahu and I spoke, I suggested a number of concrete steps Israel could take to improve the atmosphere and rebuild confidence. The prime minister responded with specific actions Israel is prepared to take toward this end, and we discussed a range of other mutual confidence-building measures. Senator Mitchell continued this discussion in Israel over the weekend and is meeting with President Abbas today. We are making progress. We're working hard. We are making it possible for these proximity talks to move ahead. I will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu later today and President Obama will meet with him tomorrow. (Applause.) We will follow up on these discussions and seek a common understanding about the most productive way forward.

Neither our commitment nor our goal has changed. The United States will encourage the parties to advance the prospects for peace. We commend the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for the reforms they've undertaken to strengthen law and order, and the progress that they've made in improving the quality of life in the West Bank. But we encourage them to redouble their efforts to put an end to incitement and violence, continue to ensure security and the rule of law, and ingrain a culture of peace and tolerance among Palestinians. (Applause.)

We applaud Israel's neighbors for their support of the Arab Peace Initiative and the proximity talks. But their rhetoric must now be backed up by action. (Applause.) They should make it easier to pursue negotiations and an agreement. That is their responsibility.

And we commend Prime Minister Netanyahu for embracing the vision of the two-state solution, for acting to lift roadblocks and ease movement throughout the West Bank. And we continue to expect Israel to take those concrete steps that will help turn that vision into a reality - build momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Now, from the time of David Ben-Gurion, who accepted the UN proposal to divide the land into two nations, Israel and Palestine, leaders like Begin and Rabin and Sharon and others have made difficult but clear-eyed choices to pursue peace in the name of Israel's future. It was Rabin who said, "For Israel there is no path that is without pain. But the path of peace is preferable to the path of war." And last June at Bar-Ilan University, Prime Minister Netanyahu put his country on the path to peace. President Abbas has put the Palestinians on that path as well. The challenge will be to keep moving forward, to stay on what will be a difficult course.

Peace does brings with it a future of promise and possibility. Ultimately, that is the vision that drives us and that has driven leaders of Israel going back to the very beginning - a future freed from the shackles of conflict; families no longer afraid of rockets in the night; Israelis traveling and trading freely in the region; Palestinians able to chart their own futures; former adversaries working together on issues of common concern like water, infrastructure, and development that builds broadly shared prosperity and a global strategic partnership between Israel and the United States that taps the talent and innovation of both our societies, comes up with solutions to the problems of the 21st century.

From addressing climate change and energy to hunger, poverty and disease, Israel is already on the cutting edge. Look at the spread of high-tech start-ups, the influx of venture capital, the number of Nobel laureates. Israel is already a force to be reckoned with. Imagine what its leadership could be on the world stage if the conflict were behind it. We are already working as partners. There is so much more we could achieve together.

We are entering the season of Passover. The story of Moses resonates for people of all faiths, and it teaches us many lessons, including that we must take risks, even a leap of faith, to reach the promised land. When Moses urged the Jews to follow him out of Egypt, many objected. They said it was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. And later, in the desert, some thought it would be better to return to Egypt. It was too dangerous, too hard, too risky. In fact, I think they formed a back-to-Egypt committee and tried to stir up support for that. And when they came to the very edge of the promised land, there were still some who refused to enter because it was too dangerous, too hard, and too risky.

But Israel's history is the story of brave men and women who took risks. They did the hard thing because they believed and knew it was right. We know that this dream was championed by Herzl and others that many said was impossible. And then the pioneers - can you imagine the conversation, telling your mother and father I'm going to go to the desert and make it bloom. And people thinking, how could that ever happen? But it did. Warriors who were so gallant in battle, but then offered their adversaries a hand of peace because they thought it would make their beloved Israel stronger. Israel and the generations that have come have understood that the strongest among us is often the one who turns an enemy into a friend. Israel has shed more than its share of bitter tears. But for that dream to survive, for the state to flourish, this generation of Israelis must also take up the tradition and do what seems too dangerous, too hard, and too risky. And of this they can be absolutely sure: the United States and the American people will stand with you. We will share the risks and we will shoulder the burdens, as we face the future together.

God bless you. God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

Middle East Inside Line: Gaza is Boiling, Israel-Palestine Negotiations, Netanyahu to Washington

Gaza Rockets, Israel's Response: Five rockets in 48 hours have been launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, one of them taking the life of a Thai worker. In response, Israeli Air Forces carried out two air strikes on two tunnels which wounded 14 Palestinians, two seriously.

Middle East Analysis: Syria, Thomas Friedman, & “Why We Fail” (Narwani)

Latest on Israel-Palestine Negotiations: On Friday, the Quartet (Russia, the United States, the UN and the European Union) called on Israel and the Palestinians to renew peace negotiations to achieve a two-state solution within 24 months. The statement said:

The Quartet believes these negotiations should lead to a settlement, negotiated between the parties within 24 months, that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and results in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbors.

The Quartet urges the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activities ... and to refrain from demolitions and evictions.

In response, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman bombarded the Quartet:
Peace will be established through actions and not by force.

The Quartet is ignoring the last 16 years of Israeli attempts, and is giving the Palestinians the impression that they can achieve their demands by continuing to refuse direct negotiations under false pretexts.

The Israeli government has made many significant gestures. Now it's the Palestinian's turn to prove that they are really interested in negotiations.

The Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was satisfied with the Quartet's decision and called it as "very important" but had one thing to add:
It is very important, but what is more important is for Israel to comply with what came in it so that we can launch the peace process.

According to the London-based pan Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Authority Saeb Erekat has demanded that the international community place supervisors in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem in order to ensure Israeli building halts completely. He said: "Even if Netanyahu would accept the position of the Quartet, in their call for a building freeze we wouldn't believe him because the building continues secretly."

On Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon landed in Israel and went to Ramallah were he criticized Israeli settlement building by saying that it undermines peace efforts. He said:
The world has condemned Israel's settlement plans in east Jerusalem. Let us be clear. All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped.

Having finished his meetings in the West Bank, General Secretary is going to return Israel to meet with President Shimon Peres. On Sunday, he is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak and to visit the Gaza Strip. He said:
I go to Gaza tomorrow to express my solidarity with the plight of the Palestinians here and to underscore the need to end the blockade.

Netanyahu to Washington: Meanwhile, Israeli officials have confirmed that United States President Barack Obama is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

In interview with BBC television on Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked whether escalating the tone with Israel had paid off. She replied:
I think we're going to see the resumption of the negotiation track and that means that it is paying off because that's our goal.