Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed AIPAC’s 2014 Policy Conference in Washington D.C. Tuesday and began by bringing “greetings from Jerusalem – the eternal, undivided capital of the State of Israel” – to a standing ovation.
Describing Israel as “the most pro-Israel country” in the world, Netanyahu said he had come to “draw a clear line… between life and death, between right and wrong, between the blessings of… the future and… a dark past.”
Specifically, Netanyahu focused his speech on describing what he said was the “moral divide” which separates Israel and her enemies.
Iran ‘on the wrong side of history’
The Prime Minister received rigorous applause as he described his visit to Israeli field hospitals treating Syrians injured in that country’s civil war.
He described how a mother and child were “blown to bits by Iranian bombs” fired by the Assad regime, and how patients voiced how they had come to realize that they had been “lied to” about Israel for decades by their leaders.
“In a Middle East bludgered by barbarism Israel is humane, Israel is compassionate, Israel is a force for good,” he said, contrasting Israel’s humanitarian efforts worldwide to Iran’s support for terrorism and oppression of its own people.
“The only things Iran sends abroad are rockets… and terrorism, to maim and kill innocent people,” he declared.
Quoting Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Netanyahu described the “moral divide” between Israel and Iran.
“Iran and Hezbollah love death, and Israel loves life. And that’s why Iran and Hezbollah will win, and Israel will lose,” he quoted Nasrallah as saying.
“He’s right about the first point… but he is dead wrong about the second point,” Netanyahu shot back. “It is precisely because we love life that Israel shall win!”
“Iran continues to stand on the wrong side of the moral divide, and that is why we must stand, unequivocally, on the right side of that divide.”
Netanyahu also emphasized the threat posed to the US specifically by Iran, noting that whilst the Islamic Republic already had missiles which could reach Israel, it was building longer-range Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). The purpose of those missiles, he said, was specifically to target America.
“When you see Iran building ICBMs, just remember America – that Scud’s for you!” Netanyahu quipped.
“Leaving Iran as a threshold nuclear power would deal a death-blow to nuclear non-proliferation,” he said, warning the audience to look beyond the “smiling faces” of the regime in Tehran.
“If we allow this outlaw terrorist state to enrich uranium” he said, it would “open up the floodgates… a Pandora’s Box of nuclear proliferation throughout the region… and the world.
“Letting the worst terrorist regime on the planet to get atomic bombs would endanger the world, and certainly Israel,” he continued – and Israel would not let that happen.
“70 years ago the Jewish people were left for dead… but we came back to life,” he noted, and pledged that he would make sure that “we will never be brought to the brink of extinction again.”
For a diplomatic deal with Iran to work, pressure should be strengthened, not relieved, he cautioned.
“Greater pressure on Iran will not make war more likely, it will make war less likely,” by showing the international community was serious.
‘Mahmoud Abbas – no more excuses!’
Addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict, Netanyahu praised US Secretary John Kerry’s efforts to broker peace, hailing him as “the Secretary of State who never sleeps.”
He reiterated that he was “prepared to make an historic peace with our Palestinian partners… to end decades of bloodshed,” he declared – a peace which would see “nation-states for two peoples.”
But, he added “I will never gamble with the security of the one and only Jewish state.”
Just as Israel is prepared to recognize a Palestinian State, “the Palestinians must be prepared to recognize a Jewish state,” he demanded.
Such a recognition is not a symbolic gesture, he explained, but a clear statement that the PA was prepared to end the conflict for good, as opposed to simply restarting it at a later point with new claims, such as an attempt “to flood Israel with refugees”.
Netanyahu addressed PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas directly: “President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state!” he urged, and called on the PA to stand “on the right side of the moral divide”, and “finally make clear that you are prepared to end the conflict.”
Citing the Jewish historical connection to Hevron, Bet El and Jerusalem, he continued that “it’s time the Palestinians stop denying history.”
“Recognize the Jewish state – no excuses… it’s time!” urged from the podium.
But could take years, even decades, for such a formal recognition to filter down to the Palestinian street – which is precisely why Israel needed long-term security arrangements even after a final agreement.
In addition, any agreement would immediately come under attack by Hamas, Hezbollah and other radical groups, he predicted, which was why only “the Israeli army, the brave soldiers of the IDF” could be trusted to secure Israel, as opposed to international forces whose permanence cannot be guaranteed under fire.
BDS? “Bigotry, Dishonesty and Shame”
Turning to the movement of to boycott Israel – the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), Netanyahu said that the movement is standing “on the wrong side of the moral divide”, and was bound to fail.
BDS attempts “don’t seek a solution of two states for two people… but the dissolution of the only state of the Jewish people,” he said, noting the movement’s own openly-declared opposition to the State of Israel’s very existence.
Urging the public to “reject the BS in BDS”, he called on “those who wear the BDS label” to be treated in the same way as any other anti-Semites.
“The boycotters should be boycotted!” he said, as the boycott movement was motivated by pure hatred.
BDS, he quipped, stands for “Bigotry, Dishonesty and Shame”, and those “gullible fellow travelers” who believe BDS helps the cause of peace were actually pushing peace further away by helping to harden Palestinian positions.
The Israeli Prime Minister ended by addressing the audience directly.
“America and Israel stand on the right side of the moral divide. We stand together on the right side of history – so stand tall, stand strong and stand proud!”
The address follows a meeting yesterday with US President Barack Obama in which Netanyahu received praise for his diplomacy with the Palestinian Authority. The Prime Minister himself took the opportunity to call on the PA to live up to its commitments under international law.
This year’s conference in D.C. has seen a record 14,000 in attendance, including 2,300 students, over 600 rabbis and hundreds of other religious, community and political leaders from across the US