"Our mood is not one of celebration. Our mood is one of caution and concern. Unease sits heavily on our shoulders", declared US Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at the 2011 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC. Expressing concern about the security of Israel he said, "At no time in Israel’s history has her future faced such tension and such serious tests. Uncertainty awaits us on many fronts."
In the midst of such unprecedented global acrimony directed at the Jewish state, Senator Reid pledged his continued support for Israel. "I stand with Israel, the Congress stands with Israel and America stands with Israel because the values that have cast our histories are one and the same. And our futures will be intertwined even more than our history has been. You know these values: Democracy, opportunity, justice. Strength, security and self-defense. Innovation. Peace. These values fasten the unbreakable bond between the United States and the State of Israel", he said.
Addressing the recent assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by US Navy SEALs, Senator Reid told his audience that the United States based its tactical approach on previous Israeli operations of this magnitude. Referencing the history making "raid on Entebbe" conducted in the summer of 1976 by Israeli commandos when a plane was hijacked and Jewish passengers were separated from the rest, Reid said, "Many of the elements of the Entebbe story sound familiar to the details we’ve heard in recent days about the raid that brought another hijacker to justice. Before both missions, intelligence services surveyed the targets. Troops built and trained on an exact model before flying through the darkness, to unfamiliar foreign terrain, to do what they had to do. The surprise mission was carried out with staggering speed and success."
Recalling the history of the modern state of Israel, Reid said, "For 63 years, a strong, vibrant democracy has flowered in the unlikeliest of deserts. It’s a democracy dedicated to progress and prosperity and to the values that anchor the free world. So the thousands of us here tonight say in single voice: if you believe in democracy, believe in Israel."
Supporting President Obama's foreign policy objective of a "two-state solution" to the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Reid said, "I support a strong democratic, Jewish state of Israel living in peace and security with a Palestinian state. Like you, I hope sincerely for a true and lasting peace between Israelis and the Palestinian people." He took exception, however, to President Obama's call for a peace settlement based on the 1967 borders. "The place where negotiating will happen must be the negotiating table – and nowhere else. Those negotiations will not happen – and their terms will not be set – through speeches, or in the streets, or in the media. No one should set premature parameters about borders, about building or about anything else."
Echoing the sentiments of other speakers at the conference who have condemned the recent partnership of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization with Hamas, Reid said, "Palestinians cannot bring to the negotiating table a terrorist organization that rejects Israel’s right to exist. Nowhere else in the world, is one party expected to compromise with a partner who denies its very existence. A peace process can happen only when both sides seek peace. And two partners cannot build a bridge when one party refuses even to admit there is something on the other side of the span."
Quoting former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Reid intoned, "a government that includes Hamas is a threat not only to Israel – it is a threat to the creation of a Palestinian state, a threat to the legitimacy of a new state and a threat to stability in the region." Proffering his opinion on the proposed United Nations forum scheduled for September in which the world body will be asked to vote on the creation of an independent Palestinian state, Reid added, :"Palestinians cannot simply stop by the negotiating table on their way to the United Nations, where they seek recognition that is at once purely symbolic and dangerously counterproductive."
Articulating this views on the existential threat posed to Israel and the Western world by a nuclear armed Iran under the leadership of its president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Reid stated, "The threat from Iran has not subsided. It cannot be underestimated or overstated. It is a common threat, a common enemy to both Israel and America. The president of Iran has made anti-Semitism his policy. He preaches vile propaganda and has articulated his regime’s goal of erasing Israel from the map."
In a voice of deep conviction, Reid continued, "As long as the terrorist state of Iran supports terrorist organizations in the Middle East, including Hamas and Hezbollah – as long as it hides behind these terrorists and uses them as proxies against Israel – as long as Iran continues to defy the international community by enriching uranium and brazenly defying United Nations Security Council resolutions – America will stand against Iran – for our sake, and for Israel’s."
Concerning the possibility of exploring a US sponsored military option vis-a-vis Iran, Reid strongly intoned, "None of us wants to go to war with Iran. We all hope economic pain on the other side will prevent human suffering on ours. But we will not wait forever. And we will not take any options off the table."
Reiterating his theme of continued American support for Israel, Reid concluded by saying, "Before the ink had even dried on the declaration of Israel’s independence – with the name of the new state literally penciled in – America was the first nation to recognize Israel’s right to self-determination and self-defense. We were there from the beginning, and we will be with her for all time. America’s commitment to Israel is incorruptible. It is non-negotiable. And we will never leave her side." .
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