GORE PLEDGES HIS TEAR, YOUR BLOOD AND SWEAT TO ISRAEL FOREVER (Flashback to 1998)
It is a "given" in Washington that U.S. politicians who do not bow to Israel tend to disappear. Since 1948, presidential candidates have campaigned on the basis of who loves the Mideast ministate the most. With the 50th anniversary of the state of Israel noted this year, U.S. politicians have rushed to have their names added to the list of the servants of "America's best ally."
With this in mind, Vice President Al Gore delivered a speech at the 39th Annual Policy Conference of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), arguably the most powerful and best funded special interest group in Washington, on May 18. In a break with tradition, Gore's office refused to make copies of his speech available. The SPOTLIGHT, however, was able to procure a copy. Following are excerpts from that speech.
I can't tell you how glad I am see so many warm friends . . .To my friend, Chairman Steve Grossman. . . I was going to acknowledge Jim Nicholson also. . . Mel Solberg (ph), chairman of the conference of presidents of major Jewish organizations . . . To Minister Natan Sharansky, my warm friend. Where are you, Natan? To my colleagues in the administration who are present, Jack Lew, director of OMB; Martin Indyk of the State Department; and John Holum of the State Department; in the White House, Leon Fuerth and Marie Echaveste and Ann Lewis; and so many other distinguished guests.. . I overlooked, in protocol order, the past presidents who are with us here. . . Bubba Mitchell (ph). .. Ed Levy (ph),. .. and Larry Wineberg (ph), my good friend.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am truly delighted and honored to be here tonight. I want to salute you for your love of Israel, for your energetic and enduring support of the U.S-Israel relationship and partnership, and also for coming here every year to advocate for one of the most important cornerstones of American national security, and that is a strong and stable state of Israel. We appreciate your efforts. Every so often, in the course of this historic friendship, it's good to revisit core principles. And I'd like to do that this evening.
To begin with, every American citizen is better off because we have a loyal and committed friend in the Middle East that votes with us in the United Nations more often than any other country on the face of this earth. That is a partner. That is a fellow democracy that values what we value, a strategic ally and friend that we must support with the highest level of loyalty, and we will. The committed involvement of the students here tonight really and truly represents an inspiring rebuke to the view that today's young people in America have a dwindling interest in politics and public life. You reject apathy. You reject selfishness and inwardness and indifference. So thank you for your enthusiasm and your commitment Keep it up. Remain involved. We need your voices.
We meet tonight, of course, in the jubilee year of our great friend, Israel. And I must tell you on a personal note for my wife Tipper and me, three weeks ago, the celebration of that jubilee was among the most moving moments of our lives. [Emphasis SPOTLIGHT.] To sit with Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu and his wife Sara, with President [Ezer] Weizman. . . to see the house of Israel gathered. . . in Jerusalem; to have the honor and the challenge of putting into words to the people of Israel the bottomless reservoir of love and respect felt for them by the people of the United States of America and then to hear that love roared back, believe me, that was a joyous mission. It was a great honor to represent our country on that mission.
At that celebration, we were not merely celebrating that evening. We were not simply honoring the passage of 50 years. We were honoring what has been achieved in those 50 years. Israel has opened its doors to millions from the farthest reaches of the globe and gathered them into a great nation. The Jewish love of justice has built a powerful democracy. The Jewish love of courage has built a powerful military and the Jewish love of knowledge and respect for learning has turned an infant nation state into a high-tech economic power house. On this latest trip to Israel, I visited the world renowned Weizmann Institute where Boeing and two Israeli companies are working together on a tremendous solar energy project that could substantially reduce the world's use of fossil fuels. Israel is now second in the world in the number of annual high-tech startups.
One century ago, Israel was a dream. Half a century ago, Israel became a reality. Today, Israel is a miracle. We in America believed in Israel and loved Israel from the beginning. We are intensely proud that 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion declared the new state of Israel, the United States, under the wise leadership of President Harry S Truman, became the first nation in the world to recognize Israel. And on that auspicious day was born not only one of the most enduring nations in history but also the most enduring friendship between nations in history.
Our admiration for Israel has never been greater; our commitment to Israel has never been stronger; our friendship with Israel has never been deeper; America stands by Israel now and forever. Our special relationship with Israel is unshakable; it is ironclad, eternal and absolute. It does not depend on the peace process; it transcends the peace process. [Emphasis SPOTLIGHT.] Our differences are momentary, not permanent. They are about means and not ends. And let me say to my fellow citizens here in the United States, to our friends in Israel and let me say especially to the citizens of any nation who may wish Israel ill, don't you even think for one minute that any differences about this or that between the governments of the United States and Israel belie even the slightest weakening in our underlying unity of purpose or will shake our relationship in any way, shape or form.
Our commitment to the security of Israel is unconditional and this administration is acting decisively to meet that commitment. We provide more than $1 billion in annual economic assistance. We support billions of dollars in joint economic ventures that have helped to make Israel into a second Silicon Valley. We support the binational industrial and agricultural research funds that have led to billions of dollars in product sales. We are Israel's largest trading partner, exceeding $12.5 billion per year. We pushed for the end of the Arab boycott of Israel that opened markets, expanded Israel's exports, and multiplied Israel's foreign investment.
Of course, we are not only committed to Israel's economic security, we are resolutely committed to Israel's military security. We provide $1.8 billion annually in direct military assistance, including advanced aircraft like the F-15 and the F-16, to help maintain Israel's qualitative edge in military capacity. In the face of growing threats, we have worked to provide additional military assistance as needed. And we intend to increase our direct military assistance in the years to come.
To combat terrorism, we organized at Sharm el-Sheikh the first counterterrorism conference to bring together Israeli and Arab leaders. Together our researchers are developing new anti-terrorist technologies. We rushed Israel $100 million in emergency aid to respond to new threats when they emerged. We imposed sanctions on terrorist sponsors, like Iran, Libya, Sudan and others. During the recent Gulf crisis, we immediately deployed a joint task force headed by a team of senior officers to coordinate U.S. military assistance to Israel to help meet a potential threat from Iraq. And as we deployed additional U.S. troops to the Gulf, we were prepared to commit additional Patriot missiles to bolster Israel's air defenses had it become necessary.
To meet the continuing threat of Katyusha rockets, we funded and developed the tactical, high-energy laser program to provide Israel with a laser defense. To meet the growing threat of ballistic missiles, we upgraded the U.S.-Israel weapons research and development partnership to build the Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile system. And most recently, we have worked with Congress to provide an additional $45 million to help Israel begin to build a third Arrow battery. But that's far from the full story. Let me expand for a moment on the threat of ballistic missiles. President Clinton and I consider this a matter of the utmost gravity. As many of you know... I was the author and principal sponsor of the legislation which now restricts the proliferation of ballistic missile technology. And as a member of the executive branch, I have become even more deeply involved in this issue. I've been particularly active over the last two years as Iran has tried to develop weapons of mass destruction and longer-range ballistic missile systems capable of threatening the entire region, including Israel.
Let me assure you, the United States government at every level, from President Clinton on down, has been working diligently to block this process, cut off its oxygen and suffocate it and end it. We are working on every front to upgrade the coordination of measures to prevent the spread of dual-use technologies to countries like Iran and to counter terrorism. And I believe we are making progress in enhancing multilateral cooperation with the EU [European Union], Russia and Japan toward accomplishing our shared objective in inhibiting Iran's ability to develop weapons of mass destruction and support terrorist activity. As part of this effort, we have also intensively engaged the Russians on proliferation issues and on their plans for enforcing their own anti-proliferation policies, including when President Clinton met with President [Boris] Yeltsin at the just completed Summit of the Eight in Birmingham, England. This battle against proliferation is, of course, a very high stakes battle.
Let me say to the men and women of AIPAC who have worked so hard to make sure that Israel will never be threatened, I pledge to you here this evening that this administration will continue to use all of our resources and all our ingenuity to win this battle, and ensure the safety of Israel, and protect U.S. national interests. [Emphasis SPOTLIGHT.] Just today, just today, I had the latest in a series of meetings with Minister Sharansky. And I cannot discuss the substance of our conversations, but I can tell you this: Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Clinton have authorized the two of us to carry on the most intensive, high-level discussion and close coordination possible on this subject. I can tell you that we are making progress. I can tell you that we have more work to do. I can tell you that there is no disagreement between the two of us on any of the details. There is constant consultation back and forth. And I can tell you that we are determined to prevail. We are going to take every step necessary in order to prevail.
Now, all of these efforts I have described reflect our ironclad commitment in the administration and in the United States to make sure that Israel is safe. And yet, they represent just one pillar of our effort in Israel's defense. The second pillar is the search for lasting peace with security. We embraced this search in the very first year of the Clinton-Gore administration, and our involvement has deepened over time. Remember, for example, our nation's help in bringing about the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. I could cite many other examples over the last 5-1/2 years. This involvement deepened when Prime Minister Netanyahu invited us to help in the negotiations over the Hebron agreement when they reached an impasse. Then, after months of continuing stalemate, it deepened further when Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded that the step-by-step approach was not working fast enough and that what was needed was an accelerated approach to permanent status negotiations. Because our lines of communication are open in some places where Israel's are closed, Prime Minister Netanyahu asked the United States to use our good offices to assist Israel's search for peace with security. As the parties found it gradually harder to respond to one another, we offered ideas we hoped would continue the forward movement of the peace process. Over the past 15 months, that has been our goal.
I personally have met for many, many hours one on one with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, here in the United States, in other countries, on the margins of international meetings that he and I both were attending. He is a man carrying the weight of the history of the Jewish people on his shoulders. He knows as well as anyone that an error at this time could profoundly affect the future well-being of Israel. In our conversations, I have always found the prime minister deeply concerned, not only about the security dimensions of a peace agreement, but also about the true intentions of his neighbors. Peace on paper is not the same as peace in ones heart.
The prime minister wants to know that his neighbors are truly seeking peace, and not just a strategic foothold. The United States shares these concerns, particularly when Chairman [Yasir] Arafat makes public statements that seem to undercut his signed commitments to peace. He cannot say one thing to the world and another thing to his own people. He must speak to his people. . .He must speak to his people in consistent and unambiguous terms about the permanent nature of the peace he is trying to reach and declare a clear and unequivocal acceptance of the state of Israel. The United States believes there is one authentic way for Israel's neighbors to prove their commitment to peace: fight terrorism. And that is why, in our approach to Chairman Arafat, we have been insisting strenuously that he owes this process a 100 percent attack on terrorism, 100 percent of the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and not one second less. It is essential.
There is some cause for encouragement in the fact that over the past two months Chairman Arafat has taken steps to uproot the Hamas terrorist network and its terrorist infrastructure. Clearly these actions against terrorists are long overdue, but still they are positive developments, and we will keep urging him on in what he has begun. Ultimately, the prospects for peace rests on the answer to one question: Will Arab nations and peoples finally accept Israel as a neighbor? In my conversations with Chairman Arafat, with Crown Prince Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, and with President [Hosni] Mubarak in Egypt, and with others during previous visits, we discussed this issue. One can never dismiss the effect of decades of organized national hatred directed against Israel. But neither should we dismiss out of hand, the possibility that another attitude may have begun to take root. An attitude that favors ending this conflict in order to get on with the tasks of the future. I have sensed this attitude in my discussions with King Hussein and others in Jordan. And there is evidence of its existence elsewhere. If this new attitude does really exist, it needs encouragement. Otherwise, it could vanish.
That, my friends, is what accounts for our efforts to urge the patties in these talks to work hard for success. This is an important matter. We are offering the best counsel we can to help find a breakthrough and help bring the parties to final talks. But through all of this there is one constant: The United States has an absolute, uncompromising commitment to Israel's security and an absolute conviction that Israel alone must decide the steps necessary to ensure that security. That is Israel's prerogative. We accept that. We endorse that. Whatever Israel decides cannot, will not, will never, not ever alter our fundamental commitment to her security. [Emphasis SPOTLIGHT.]
In addition, I know many of you have expressed concern about the establishment of a Palestinian state. Let me make clear our position, which has not changed. First, the question of the status of the West Bank and Gaza is an extremely complex issue which Israel and the Palestinians have agreed should be discussed and resolved by direct negotiations. Second, this issue, like the other issues reserved for permanent status talks, can only be settled through negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Finally, it is our view that unilateral actions and statements by the parties concerning these issues are not helpful to the environment necessary for making peace.
Now, I began these remarks speaking of our country's affection for Israel. Let me now say a words about my own personal feelings about Israel. I was born in 1948, and when I was growing up watching world events, I saw in Israel a democracy surrounded by enemies, threatened with extinction, fighting for existence, sharing our values and my Bible. I identified closely with the struggle of the Israelis as one naturally identifies with people of courage, intelligence and determination who are committed to stand up to injustice, but have so many times been cut down by injustice. [Emphasis SPOTLIGHT.]
It is difficult for anyone who does not live in Israel and who has not directly experienced the suffering to understand what it means to a people who have formed a nation in the wake of the horrific events of World War II to then see innocents become victims of terrorism. We know from whence comes this commitment to justice, grounded in an appreciation of the divine. This is the sacred principle that brings us here and binds us together. The bond I feel with this group and with the American Jewish community springs from this. It is tsedek, tsedek that we pursue together. And because we are committed to justice, we believe it is just that Israel exists and flourishes.
Earlier I talked about first principles, our friendship with Israel; our common values; the fact that Israel is a democracy; an ally, loyal and faithful in the United Nations votes and elsewhere. But there is another principle involved. I believe, and the people of the United States of America believe, that when a people endure over 40 centuries suffering, enslavement by the pharaohs, wanderings in Canaan, destruction in Judah, captivity in Babylon, oppression by the Romans, expulsion again, persecutions and sufferings and pogroms, culminating in the unspeakably horrific frenzy of evil at the hands of the Nazis, justice demands for them a home, demands for them a state . . . demands for them security, peace with security, enduring.
The people of Israel deserve a future that is as bright as their own brilliance, a land secure and impenetrable, the right to feel secure in their own nation, the right to be safe on their own streets, the right to live in peace with security. In closing, I pledge to you tonight with my whole heart that the United States of America will stand with Israel forever, to make real the dream of justice, peace and security for its sons and its daughters. [Emphasis SPOTLIGHT.] May God bless, Medinat Yisrael (ph) [Greater Israel. Ed.],may God bless the friends of Israel, may God bless the peacemakers.
SPOTLIGHT NEWSLETTER #4, 1998.