Notes, Quotes and Musings: AIPAC's New President Speaks

AIPAC Day One Evening Plenary. Wow! What a day of sessions and learning, and so much new information!
I promise details later on, but for now, here are a few (or more) tidbits from the speech of the new AIPAC President – Lee Rosenberg from Chicago, Illinois.

First, a few statistics and thoughts from the outgoing AIPAC President:

This is the largest AIPAC conference ever, with over 7500 delegates. This includes 1300 students, from 365 colleges and high schools. There are more than 2000 delegates that came to DC with more than 125 synagogue delegations.
AIPAC brought 70 leaders from non-Jewish communities to Israel this year alone! This includes leaders from the Christian, African-American, and Hispanic-American communities.
Lead by the belief that “a strong Israel is not only a Jewish value, it is an American value,” AIPAC brought 58 congressmen to Israel last summer, including 60% of the freshmen in Congress. Because of this commitment, “there is only one voice in the world that stands up for Israel every day – and that is America, and especially the US Congress.”
Then-candidate Barack Obama said at the AIPAC Policy Conference in 2008, ” the bond between the US and Israel is unbreakable;, it is is unbreakable today, and unbreakable tomorrow.” But for all of us, “it’s not enbough to care, it’s not enough to spend your time learning about the issues…every 2 years it’s a new election…[so] political action is imperative.”

Now for some remarks from new AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg

“These continue to be challenging times for Israel and difficult days for america.”
Next week, we will be telling one of the greatest stories of all time – a story of escaping from oppression to freedom. The children of Israel fleeing Egypt experienced a moment in time that was profound, like no other. They were able to transform their time into their turn – to determine their own destiny. “We too find ourselves in a moment of amazing opportunity and possibility. This is our time.”
“We live in a moment where the Jewish state exists. We live in a time when Israel faces threats to its very security, its very existence. And in recent days, it faces pressure from an unlikely source.”
There was an announcement of building permit approval in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized 4 separately times, saying that the announcement should not have occurred. “Even in the best relationships, missteps and disagreements will occur. How they disagree is what will define the relationship.”
3 points:

  1. Israeli leaders pationately believe in peace, and Israel is commited to its alliance with America.
  2. The US and Israel have a responsibility to work with one another to achieve peace – that is what allies do.
  3. “Allies should work out their differences privately!”

“History shows that when the  US pressures Israel publicly, it provides an opportunity for those who wish to pressure Israel to have their way.”
“Let’s be clear – the reluctant partner in this peace process is NOT Israel’s elected leader Prime Minister Netanyahu. The recalcitrant partner is the Palestinians and their leader, Mahmoud Abbas. The PA is divided between Hamas and Fatah – that is a problem. The failure to come to the table with Israel – that is a problem. Israel is not the problem!”
“Danger and opportunity dwell together. That is why Israel is willig to pursue peace even while Hamas and Hezbollah stockpile weapons. That is why Israel is willing to pursue peace even while Iran continues to try and build a nuclear weapong to carry out Ahmadinejad’s threat to wipe out Israel.”
“The very decisions that will influence Israel’s safety are being made right here in this city. And in our time, it is Congress, the bedrock of American support for Israel, that must act.”
American leaders have many other priorities. There are a lot of retirements and a volatile environment – there may be many new legislators next year. “Will they possess the political will to make sure Iran does not have the bomb? How many are involved in pro-Israel politics? Not enough! Israel is America’s only reliable ally and friend in the Middle East.”
“[Young people] must give of their most precious resource – their time – to pro-Israel campaigns.”

On Tuesday, AIPAC activists will have more than 500 separate meetings with their legislators on Capitol hill.

AIPAC’s legislative priorities on the hill:
3 key objectives:

  1. Iran still remains the urgent and demanding issue of our time. “We must not allow ourselves and anyone else to become distracted. Iran must remain our focus”
  2. Must ensure the passage of this year’s foreign aid package
  3. Highlight the mutual benefits of the US-Israel alliance

On Iran:
We are closer than ever to presenting the Iranian regime with a stark choice. Either end your nuclear pursuit or face crippling economic sanctions. In the past few days, Royah Dutch Shell stopped selling gasoline to Iran! It made this choice due to the threat of Congressional sanctions and the growing campaign of state divestment (including the one in our state of Minnesota – Jenna).
We made it harder for Iran to attain its goal. But we have not made it impossible yet. We must convince Congress to make it impossible!
The administration said the time for engagement would not be endless – said Iran had until the end of 2009. Iran rebuffed our outstretched hand. We welcome the administration’s decision to pursue agressive sanctions. “But the clock is ticking!” We still don’t have a timeline.
It is March 2010 – now is the time for crippling sanctions – sanctions that will make a difference. We call on legislators to put a final Iran sanctions act on the President’s desk. “Tough crippling sanctions can still work. There is still time. Sanctions must not be too light, nor too late!”
Asking legislators to support bipartisan letters to say to the President – the time is now! The Senate letter is co-sponsored by Charles Schumer and Lindsey Graham. The House letter is  co-sponsored by 2 people who agree on little, but are solidly united to stop Iran – Jesse Jackson Jr., and Mike Pence.
“I do not want to look into my little girl’s eyes and explain that Iran has a nuclear bomb because we gave up! This is our time, and this is our turn!”

Onto another topic – foreign aid.

Let’s be clear on what it is – American investment in our strategic interests abroad. Investment that pays returns – not a gift, as has been suggested in recent days. As Vice President Biden said in Israel recently, Israel does a lot for America’s security. “The most tangible expression of American interests abroad is voting for aid to Israel.”
Also want Congressmen to sign onto a Senate letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton & a House letter to President Obama. Reaffirm the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel. Express deep concern over the recent tensions.
The Senate letter is being led by Senators Boxer and Isaacson. The House letter is being led by Steny Hoyer & Eric Cantor. Must correct the impression that the US-Israel relationship is exclusively about making peace with the Palestinians! The relationship is based on many shared things. “It is a bond that must not, will not, be broken,” based on a “commitment to shared values. We much increase our individual political involvement. Must be able to look our children in the eye and say that when it was our turn, we acted.”
“In the Passover story – the waters of the reed sea did not begin to part until one man stuck his neck out, and began to lead. He acted on his conviction. He understood that time will not stand still, opportunities are fleeting, and it takes more than hope and worry to turn the tide. We have a challenge of a lifetime. We too stand at the water’s edge. Therw is a sense of strength you gain from knowing what is at stake. This is our challenge, our opportunity. This is our turn, this is our time.”
Watch Lee Rosenberg’s full speech here (in four parts), or below.