Washington, D.C. - Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks tonight at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference:
“Thank you, Amy Friedkin, for your generous introduction, for your friendship, and for your ongoing leadership, now and as a past President of AIPAC.
“Tonight, it is a true honor to be here with the leader of the Jewish state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I will never forget the great honor of visiting the Prime Minister in his Jerusalem office last May, where he took great pride in showing us an ancient seal-an artifact dating back 2,700 years, found in recent excavations right next to the Western Wall. It was inscribed with the name ‘Netanyahu' in Hebrew-a direct connection to the history of the Jewish people.
“Yesterday, you honored the extraordinary career of a true visionary, a legend of history, and a founder of the Jewish state, President Shimon Peres. I join you in celebrating his life. He helped establish the state of Israel-which many of us consider one of the greatest political achievements of the 20th century. He has dedicated his life to the cause of peace ever since-a pursuit that continues to this day. The United States, Israel, and the world are better off for the leadership of President Peres.
“We all congratulate President Peres on yesterday's announcement that President Obama will honor him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our highest civilian honor.
“Aren't we happy that this year, as we come together, Gilad Shalit is free and home with his family? But we must never forget Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser, and all of the missing or captured Israeli soldiers.
“I'm pleased to be here with Senate Republican Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. Our appearance tonight reaffirms the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress, even if we don't speak with one voice tonight.
“Congratulations to AIPAC's new President Michael Kassen, Chairman Lee Rosenberg, Executive Director Howard Kohr, and all of the leaders of AIPAC on organizing another outstanding Policy Conference. More than 13,000-strong this year, all of the delegates and community activists here are effective voices on behalf of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
“Let us all recognize the future leaders for our nation and the U.S.-Israel relationship-our students! I especially want to acknowledge the delegation from my home state of California!
“Thank you, AIPAC, for your support of foreign assistance. Your efforts go farther than support for Israel: anyone who cares about the alleviation of poverty and the eradication of hunger and disease across the globe owes AIPAC a debt of gratitude for your strong advocacy of foreign aid.
“The last time I spoke to you, I talked about my Jewish grandchildren; I have one more now. Tonight, I want to talk about another member of my family. Nearly 70 years ago, a Congressman from Baltimore took to the floor of the House to call on his colleagues and our allies to ensure the safety, security, and future of the Jewish community in Europe. Later, at the height of the Holocaust, he declared that the land then known as ‘Palestine must be kept open as a haven to the Jewish people.' And once World War II ended and before the establishment of Israel, he noted that the Jewish community ‘can find no peace in the places they once called home.' That Congressman was my father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. He was early to stand strong for a people persecuted for who they were, and he was early to stand firm for the cause of a Jewish state.
“His calls of conscience and principle were part of a lifelong commitment to the people of Israel-a commitment he passed down to his children. My brother, another former Mayor of Baltimore, Thomas D'Alesandro III, has a sports stadium named for him outside of Haifa in recognition of his unwavering support for the Jewish state. This same commitment is one I share to this day. For our family, Israel has always been a special place; for America, Israel has always stood as a beacon of hope, a partner in democracy, and an ally in the fight for security.
“From Israel's founding through the present day, our pledge remains the same: Israel and America are friends and partners, now and forever.
“Our bonds of friendship are founded on the theme of this year's Policy Conference: ‘Shared Values, Shared Vision.' Our shared commitment to security and our desire for peace. The drive to perfect the world and the pursuit of justice and the common good. The belief in democracy, in embracing the rights of free expression and a free press, in respecting the rights of women.
“For more than six decades, this has been the foundation for our unwavering promise: the U.S.-Israel relationship is unbreakable; and the United States' commitment to a secure Jewish state is unshakable.
“If our friendship were rooted only in shared values and shared vision, it could easily be said: ‘Dayeinu'-‘that would have been enough.' But our friendship goes far deeper. It is a friendship not just of words, but of deeds-and in Congress, those deeds have meant tangible results for Israel's security.
“Our actions rest on a strong pledge: our mutually-beneficial aid to Israel must, and will, remain a top priority for the United States Congress. That is why we acted, under Democratic leadership, to made our aid agreement to Israel the law of the land; until then, you could say our policy was closer to “speak loudly, and carry a small stick.” We codified our countries' Memorandum of Understanding-to invest $30 billion in Israel's defense over 10 years. That is why we will continue to expand on our work to restore, preserve, and strengthen Israel's Qualitative Military Edge with record levels of aid and investment in the Iron Dome, David's Sling, and Arrow missile defense systems.
“We will build on what American and Israeli defense leaders have hailed as an era of unprecedented cooperation in intelligence sharing and military exercises. In a time of regional instability and uncertainty among Israel's neighbors, we will always stand strong for Israel's security.
“Today, the U.S. and Israel agree: there is no more pressing threat to Israel's security and regional security than the threat of Iran's nuclear weapons program. But even without the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Israel, an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be an urgent threat to global security and to the security of the United States of America. The pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons is a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy. It is in the interest of America's security; it has been the policy of Democratic and Republican Presidents alike. It is a critical part of building a safer world for our families and for the next generation.
“We must say to all of our partners around the world: we are measuring our relationship with you on your commitment to join us in preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. That is what's called a priority. That is what the Obama Administration is doing, and more. That is what the United States is doing.
“Congress and President Obama have acted on this commitment: turning our promises of action into crippling sanctions against the Iranian regime. Thank you to AIPAC for your leadership, support, and advocacy. During my time as Speaker, under the leadership of Chairman Howard Berman, we enacted the strongest Iran sanctions legislation ever passed by Congress-imposing sanctions on companies that sell Iran technology, services, know-how, and materials for its energy sector. We offered foreign banks a choice: they can deal with institutions that support weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, or they can do business with the United States. But they cannot do both. In December, we built on these measures, targeting the Central Bank of Iran and further isolating the regime from the global economy.
“The United States is leading the charge with our allies and at the U.N. In recent weeks, under pressure from the Obama Administration, Iranian banks have been put on a path toward expulsion from SWIFT, which is an international network used to transfer money. This action would cut off one of Iran's only avenues left to conduct business in the global economy.
“We're seeing results. The Iranian economy and energy industry are suffering. Iran's partners are cutting off ties of trade and commerce. We are undermining the funding of Iran's nuclear activities. In short, Iran is feeling the bite of our sanctions. Our actions reaffirm our message-it is time for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment, return to the negotiating table, and abandon its reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“The President was very clear on Sunday: ‘Iran's leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.'
“Our friendship and our support for Israel's security will remain a paramount concern and priority for the United States. And the Jewish state will continue to thrive because of its own history, character, and strength. Israel's story is one of courage and bravery, persistence and perseverance; of pioneers who made a desert bloom and helped a democracy flourish.
“Last year, on the 63rd anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel - again, one of the greatest political achievements of the 20th century - our bipartisan delegation witnessed the extraordinary transition from Israel's Day of Remembrance to its Day of Independence-from loss of life to victory, from sadness to joy, from mourning to celebration. We remembered Israel's fallen, the victims of terror, the sons and daughters who went to war and never came home. We prayed for the day when Israel's children could, as my father hoped, find peace in a place they call home. We were reminded that Israel and the Jewish people remain a symbol of democracy-that we must continue to fight for the day when Israel's existence is a fact recognized by every nation on Earth. And, founded on our shared values and shared vision, we pledge to work to usher in an era when Israel can realize, in the spirit of its national anthem, the hope to be a free people, living in peace and security in the Jewish homeland.
“Thank you, AIPAC, for inviting me to join you tonight and for advancing the cause of a thriving U.S.-Israel relationship. Together, our work will continue; our alliance will grow deeper; the friendship between the U.S. and Israel will stand strong, now and forever.
“May God bless Israel. May God bless the United States of America.”