Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke this morning at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Below are the Speaker's remarks:
“Good morning. Thank you for that kind introduction, Amy Friedkin. Thank you for your tremendous leadership of AIPAC over the years. Thank you for your friendship to me. I'm proud that Amy is a Californian and I know there are many Californians and San Franciscans here this morning.
“It is an honor to be here with Amy, with Howard Friedman from Baltimore, Maryland. And I want to join in acknowledging your incoming president, David Victor. Good luck to you, David.
“In particular, I would like to recognize the more than 1,200 college students who are today. We celebrate Israel's founding 60 years ago, and pass the torch to all of you to ensure Israel exists for your grandchildren, and your grandchildren's grandchildren, and even further into it, your grandchildren's grandchildren.
“You know, Members of Congress are afforded many honors and as Speaker of the House, even more so. But I can think of none that surpass the honor of being able to lead a bipartisan delegation of Members of the House of Representatives to extend on behalf of the Congress of the United States and the American people, our greetings and congratulations to Israel on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel.
“What is important about the trip was that it was bipartisan and I'm happy that Leader Boehner mentioned it was his intention to be on the trip, because he and I had planned it for a long time, but for health reasons, he could not come at the last minute.
“That is all to say that in the Congress of the United States, the aisle that divides Democrats and Republicans disappears when it comes to policy that relates to our support of the security for the state of Israel.
“As you saw in the film, we began our visit, right off the plane, by touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. It was a fitting beginning for the trip to us where we could pay our respects to those who had lost their lives and families in the Holocaust.
“There we took a moment to acknowledge the exceptional leadership of our former colleague, Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in the Congress of the United States. This is the first meeting of AIPAC that Tom would not have been at since AIPAC's existence, and I know how proud he would be of all of you.
“During the trip, we received a special welcome from President Peres, Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Barak, Foreign Minister Livni, Opposition Leader Netanyahu and Speaker Itzik. Speaker Itzik, the first woman Speaker of the Knesset - she is spectacular, she made it possible for us to receive the greetings of Prime Minister Olmert and Opposition Leader Netanyahu directly at the Knesset. It was a very special occasion for all of us and in each of these meetings, what is important about it all is that we discussed the security of Israel. Israel is a democracy and our strong ally that lives in a dangerous neighborhood. For many reasons, it is important for us to support the security of Israel. It is in the national interest of the United States of America to support the security of Israel.
“Much fuss has been made about the unanimous resolution, and I'll talk about it in a moment, observing the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel, which many of you advocated for and that was important. That was important that is was unanimous, but it was also important for us to be able to say that on the very day that our delegation left for Israel, the House passed the Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Reform Act of 2008.
“This bill underscores the U.S. commitment to Israel's security by ensuring that Israel is treated like NATO members, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, for purposes of expediting exports of essential military equipment. This represented real change. In addition, the bill begins the implementation of the new, ten-year Memorandum of Understanding on U.S. security assistance to Israel, and requires that Israel's qualitative military edge be empirically assessed on an ongoing basis. Howard Berman, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Gary Ackerman were very instrumental, as well as Ron Klein from the state of Florida.
“This bill recognizes that Israel's national security is a priority for the United States and it recognizes the request for increased security assistance for Israel. I don't know if Harry Reid or John Boehner told you this earlier, but the first the first installment of that increase - $170 million - will be in the supplemental appropriations bill the House will consider soon, in fact, that we are considering now so we can expedite this.
“Of course, one of the subjects of main concern when we were in Israel, as it is in our country, is the subject of Iran. Ensuring the security of Israel, and the entire world, demands that we do more to convince Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and cease its support for terrorist groups.
“This isn't just about Israel, as important as it is to Israel, the existential threat that Iran presents to Israel. These two features are pillars of American foreign policy. Stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a pillar of our foreign policy. Fighting terrorism wherever it exists is a pillar of our foreign policy.
“So this is an issue where Israel is on the front line fighting the fight, bearing the brunt of the threat, and in doing so, Israel makes that fight not just for Israel, but for the entire world, including the United States of America.
“Therefore it is essential that we tighten sanctions an essential component of this diplomatic effort.
“Last fall, under the leadership of Chairman Tom Lantos, the House voted to extend the provisions of the Iran Sanctions Act to the parent companies of foreign subsidiaries and to prohibit U.S. nuclear cooperation with countries that assist Iran's nuclear program or help Iran acquire advanced conventional weapons.
“I know that later today many of you will come to the Hill to lobby on behalf of bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressmen Ackerman and Congressman Pence, which urges an even more robust sanctions regime. Thank you for doing that.
“Sanctions that are far-reaching and tough demonstrate to Iranian leaders that their behavior is recognized as a threat not just by their neighbors in the region, but by the world and that the international community is prepared to confront that behavior with all of the diplomatic tools at its disposal.
“For that and many other reasons, Majority Leader Hoyer and Minority Whip Blunt have written a letter to the President urging his continued support for the Israel-Palestinian peace process. We must bring peace to the region. I know you are urging other Members to sign that letter. It is another bipartisan effort to demonstrate our support for Israel.
“Just recently, as I mentioned earlier, many of you urged your representatives to pass a resolution expressing our support and enthusiasm for Israel on its 60th anniversary.
“I am proud to say we were able to deliver this, as you saw in the film, and to say it passed the Congress unanimously. How much more bipartisan can you get that unanimously? Just think of the thrill it was for all of us to stand there as we went into the Knesset to be able to present that resolution to Speaker Itzik and to the people of Israel on your behalf. As each of the think of it individually what a thrill it would be for you, it certainly was a thrill of a lifetime for each of us.
“America and Israel, as we said that day and had said in the resolution, have a common history. We are both nations that are beacons of democracy to the world, forged by pioneers, developed by immigrants, fulfilled by immigrants. We share a common future - as entrepreneurs and innovators, building the kind of world that we dream of for our children's children. And we share a common cause - a safe and secure Israel living in peace with her neighbors.
“I love the theme of the AIPAC conference: ‘U.S.-Israel: Built to Last.' Let's hear it for the AIPAC theme today. The U.S.-Israel relationship, built to last. I talked about children, starting with the 1,200 students and their children and their grandchildren and their grandchildren, and ended talking about a dream for our children's children.
“And there are three children I want to close by mentioning today. Since I saw you last, I've been to Israel two times. Last year, I had the honor of speaking in front of the beautiful Chagall mural to the members of the Knesset. And at the same time we were on that trip, our Members, and Tom Lantos was on that trip, we had the privilege with meeting many of the families. I say many because we were set up to meet with three of the families, the Schalit family, the Goldwasser family, and the Regev family, but people found out we were going to be there, other families came to talk about loved ones who had been lost in war, kidnapped, not heard from for a very long time.
“And I think you know, I think I showed you this last year, but I want you to know in the course of the last year, I have shown these dog tags to heads of state all over the world. I have shown them to people who visit my office, every opportunity this Speaker of the House has. I will always impress upon our visitors that we will never rest, that we will relentless in the fighting for the release of Gilad Schalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev. That is the thought I want to leave with you.
“Good luck and congratulations on your deliberations here. I look forward to welcoming you to Capitol Hill. God Bless the U.S.-Israel relationship. God Bless all of you. God Bless America. Thank you very much.”