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Pelosi Delivers Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke this morning at AIPAC's annual Policy Conference.  Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Thank you for that kind introduction, Amy.  You have been my dear friend for many years.  I was so proud when Amy, a fellow Californian, became the first woman president of AIPAC.

'I take special pride in Howard Friedman, a native Baltimorean and your President.

'I also acknowledge Howard Kohr, and all my good friends who serve in the leadership of AIPAC.

'Thank you to all the members of AIPAC, particularly the nearly 1,200 who have traveled from California.  

'And I want to especially acknowledge the more than 1,000 students here today.  The state of Israel was the dream of your ancestors, made a reality by your parents and grandparents.  The torch is now passed to you to work for a safe and secure Jewish state of Israel.  

'And while I am on the subject of young people, I cannot resist telling you how my grandchildren celebrated Purim.  

'This year, their Purim spiel had a Beatles theme, complete with 'We all live in a yellow synagogue,' and 'Esther-day.'  

'But amidst the fun, they once again recalled the history of a Persian leader threatening the Jewish people, and the heroine Esther who had the courage to speak out and save them.

'Today, the Israeli people have and need that same courage to meet that same challenge.  

'I have had the honor of addressing you on many occasions.  It is a special honor to do so as Speaker of the House.  In doing so, I recall when I first heard of the state of Israel.

'Some of you may know of Simon Sobeloff and his wife Irene, who were close friends of my family.  Before he was appointed Solicitor General and then a federal judge, Simon served the city of Baltimore when my father was mayor.  

'In the late 1940s, Mr. And Mrs. Sobeloff traveled to visit the newly born state of Israel.  

'When they returned, they came to our home and regaled us with magnificent tales about this glorious new country in the desert where courageous trailblazers were founding a democratic nation in their historic homeland.  As a little girl, I was drawn to the stories of turning sand dunes to orange groves, draining swamps to create farmland, and creating cities where before there had been none.  

'And along with their stories, the Sobeloffs brought me a ring from Israel, which I adored.  It helped to create an everlasting bond for me to Israel.  It is in that spirit that I come here today.  

'As the Sobeloffs told us so many years ago, pioneers founded the state of Israel.  Their spirit lives on today as Israel is on the cutting edge of the next generation of discovery, innovation, and growth.  

'Israel's entrepreneurial spirit has produced the world's highest per capita number of engineers, and the world's largest number of biotech startups.  The cell phone was developed there, and it was Israelis who invented AOL Instant Messenger.  

'With innovation, we broaden our horizons, and expand our vision, in order to create a better world.  That is why House Democrats have introduced our Innovation Agenda: A Commitment to Competitiveness to Keep America Number One.  I know this is an area where the United States and Israel can work together.  

'At the end of February, the House passed legislation to foster joint projects between the United States and key allies such as Israel, which offer the promise of using the best new innovation to improve security for all of us.

'In energy policy, the United States and Israel have another opportunity to combine our best innovative ideas.  The U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act would help fund joint ventures between United States and Israeli businesses and academic institutions for the development and commercialization of alternative renewable energy sources.  

'American and Israeli ingenuity can be put to work to achieve energy independence from Middle East oil.  A sustained investment in research and development is crucial to creating cutting-edge technologies to develop these clean, sustainable alternatives and capitalize on vast renewable natural resources, including solar energy and wind power.  

'Essential to Israel's economic security is its national security.  

'With Hezbollah sending rockets from the north, the Palestinian government too heavily in the hands of Hamas who reject Israel's existence, and the Iranian President repeatedly calling for the destruction of Israel, we are constantly reminded that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood.  

'Two weeks ago, the Acting President of Israel and Speaker of the Knesset, Dalia Itzik, came to visit me.  She brought with her Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud Goldwasser.  Ehud and Eldad Regev came under attack from Hezbollah terrorists during a routine patrol within the Israeli border last July, just a month after Gilad Schalit was captured in Gaza.  

'Karnit and Ehud had only been married 10 months when he was captured.  Now, instead of enjoying her life as a newlywed, she has summoned her inner courage to take the story of these three men to world capitals.  

'As Karnit has said, 'We want the killing to stop, both sides of the fence.  In Israel and Lebanon, we want everything to be back as it was before - no killing, no kidnapping.  We want them back home.'

'Karnit gave me these copies of their dog tags.  I keep them on display in the Speaker's office as a reminder of my promise to do everything in my power to get information on the soldiers and work for their release.  

'Ehud, Eldad, and Gilad are always in our prayers.  

'After the capture of Ehud and Eldad, more than 4,000 rockets hit Northern Israel, 1 million people were displaced, and civilian lives were lost in both Israel and Lebanon.  The U.N. Security Council responded by passing a resolution establishing conditions for the end of the violence sparked by Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel.

'Yet Hezbollah continues to violate the resolution, and reportedly continues to rearm with the help of Syria and Iran.  The 10,000 U.N. troops have not been successful in preventing the shipments of weapons and supplies. The U.S. must demand that the international forces are effectively implementing the resolution and that Hezbollah is disarmed.

'When Israel is threatened, America's interests in the region are threatened.  America's commitment to Israel's security needs is unshakable.

'I am proud to announce to you today that when Speaker Itzik visited me, she invited me to address the Knesset.  This invitation alone is one of the great thrills of my official life.

'When the time comes that I address the Knesset, which I hope is soon, I will bring a U.S. pledge of continued support.  

'As we all know, the chief source of Hezbollah's weapons is Iran. Two years ago I came before you and said, 'The greatest threat to Israel's right to exist...now comes from Iran.  For too long, leaders of both political parties in the United States have not done nearly enough to confront the threat of Iran's proliferation,' I continued.  

'Today I come here to say, that two years have passed, and we still have not done enough.

'President Ahmadinijad continues with hate-filled rhetoric about the U.S., Israel, and the Holocaust.  His recklessness with words underscores our concerns about his development of nuclear weapons. 

'Let us be very clear - Iran must not be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon.  It threatens the security of Israel, the stability of the Middle East, and the safety of the entire world.   

'As Chairman Lantos said last week when he introduced his Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007, 'We must prevent Iran from securing nuclear arms and the means to produce them.  And ensure that we achieve this goal in a peaceful manner,' he said.

'That is why, without further hesitation or equivocation, we must leverage all of our economic, political, and diplomatic power with stronger sanctions and smarter diplomacy.  

'For example, Chairman Lantos' legislation prohibits Iranian-owned state banks from using the American banking system.  

'In terms of diplomacy, it proposes that we use our influence with Russia and China to encourage them to join the world community in opposing Iran's nuclear program.  

'In confronting this challenge, it is important to note that when Israel has a choice to make, it makes courageous choices for peace.  In the name of peace, time and again, the Israelis have engaged in discussions, made compromises, and given up territory.  

'Two years ago, I spoke to you with cautious optimism for the future that was echoed by Israelis.  In return for pullout from Gaza, the Israelis hoped for a Palestinian government willing to live in peace.  

'Instead today, grandmothers still fear going to crowded marketplaces, rockets are still launched into neighboring kibbutzim, and weapons are still smuggled into the hands of terrorists willing to use them against Israeli civilians.  

'There are those who contend that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  In truth, the history of the conflict is not over occupation.  It is over the fundamental right of Israel to exist.  

'The success of Hamas in last year's election, followed by the decision by President Abbas to form a unity government, is a disappointment.  Peace efforts are at a standstill because of Hamas' failure to meet the most basic standards of the international community, recognition of Israel's right to exist, renunciation of terror, and acceptance of prior agreements.

'I am deeply concerned about the intentions of a government part of whose leadership remains committed to the destruction of Israel.  However, I am committed to a future for Israel and the Palestinian people living side by side in peace and security.  

'To that end, as Israel's trusted friend and ally, the United States has a role to play.  Secretary Rice's efforts to conduct talks with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert is welcome but long overdue.  The U.S. must have a high level, sustained presence in the region to lay the groundwork for the day we all long for - when the entire Palestinian government is ready for peace.  

'I would be remiss if I did not mention one more issue.

'This week, the House Appropriations Committee is considering a spending bill for Iraq.  

'Any U.S. military engagement must be judged on three counts - whether it makes our country safer, our military stronger, or the region more stable.  The war in Iraq fails on all three scores.  

'The Iraq supplemental we are considering gives the President everything he asked for to support our troops.  In addition, it holds the Iraqi government accountable, goes even further to protect our troops, provides for our veterans, and rebuilds our military.  

'It enables us to protect the American people, and to be a strong ally to our friends, as it greatly strengthens American's military readiness. 

'I want to thank many of you gathered here.  You were early to see the new dangers in the Middle East.

'You were early to see the danger Iran posed to the world.  

'You were early to see that Russia and other countries were transferring dangerous technology to the Iranians.  

'You were early to see, more than five years ago, that the international community needed to work with Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah.

'You were early to see the need to urge world leaders to adhere to fundamental principles when funding the Palestinian Authority.  

'Thanks for promoting ways for both Israel and the United States to be on the cutting edge with new technologies, new ways of thinking, and new solutions.    

'Today, your work continues.  

'When you leave here to visit Congress, as the cavalry storming Capitol Hill, you are upholding the best values of our political system - the right of citizens to petition their government.

'I salute you for your advocacy for a strong Iran sanctions bill which will slow down Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.  I salute your work to obtain foreign aid for a key U.S. ally - Israel.  I also encourage your efforts to strengthen the resolve of E.U. countries and others to adhere to fundamental principles when engaging with the Palestinians. 

'In America's partnership with Israel, we have both given support and drawn strength.  We share a common history - nations founded to be beacons of democracy, forged by pioneers, and fulfilled by immigrants in search of a better tomorrow.  And I join you today, because we share a common cause - a safe and secure Israel, living in peace with her neighbors.    Achieving that goal is in America's national interest.  

'The United States will stand with Israel now and forever.

'Thank you.'