AIPAC Chief Executive Officer Howard Kohr


In just a few weeks, President Obama will visit Israel, and there he will see a country full of energy and innovation, producing record numbers of Nobel laureates, making daily advances in science and medicine—a nation of entrepreneurs—a dynamic, vibrant society filled with the promise of tomorrow.

And he will also see a country targeted for annihilation, where young soldiers sit beside Iron Dome batteries poised to shoot down incoming rockets; where families kiss their teenage sons and daughters good bye—with the twin emotions of pride and concern as their children leave to defend their country; where to the north and the south, tens of thousands of rockets and missiles sit pointed at this tiny miracle in a sea of unrest.

Beyond Israel's borders, widen the lens, and this is what the President would see—A Middle East simmering to the point of boiling over. A region crumbling before our eyes. Syria deteriorating into a war of all against all. Egypt, at the edge, grappling with the rise of Islamic radicalism that has moved from the mosques into the halls of power; its economy in free fall, desperately trying to feed 80 million people. Across the region, Al Qaeda and its local offshoots are gathering strength. Even Jordan, long stable and a key ally, feels the ground shake. And amid this chaos—in some ways, under the cover of this chaos -- Iran accelerates its race for the bomb.

We need to be realistic about what we see at this moment. Yes we know, after any earthquake come the aftershocks. But this is not a spasm that will ripple and recede. After this earthquake may come a tsunami, a wave of radicalization, reaction, rage aimed at the age-old enemies: Israel and America.

We've seen a glimpse of its face: In Cairo: The storming of the American and Israeli Embassies; In Azerbaijan: Iran going after America's ambassador; In Yemen: Al Qaeda offering a bounty for our ambassador; In Libya: the killing of an American Ambassador and three other Americans; and in Turkey: The murder of a U.S. embassy guard. The forces now emerging are considerably less pro-American and markedly more anti-Israel than ever before.

This is the new Middle East. A Middle East far more unstable—more uncertain—than at any time in the last 100 years. It changes not just Israel's current planning for conflict: it changes Israel's entire security dynamic—and ours. Not a single Sunni country is free from these forces pulling it in two divergent directions: forward to the modern world, and back to a world defined by differences of clan and sect.

This situation will not resolve itself in the span of a single Spring—or even several. This is a struggle that will consume the Arab nations for many winters to come. It will make life more dangerous for Israel and more perilous for the United States.

To deal with the new Middle East, we must be willing not to wish away harsh realties, but to make an honest open-eyed appraisal of the region today and what is required of us at this moment in history. What is needed is a new architecture for the relationship between the United States and Israel. We must create a new, major strategic partnership. In the words of Lincoln, "We must think anew and act anew."

Here's the historic context: During the dangerous days of the Cold War, Israel emerged as a strategic ally of the United States against Soviet aggression in the Middle East. And we, as a community, worked hard to ensure that fact was cemented in American policy. Today, the Cold War is history, but the Middle East is more complicated than ever. Once again events reveal Israel as the major strategic partner that she is: the one nation in a chaotic neighborhood who shares our vision and our values.

This morning I want to talk about three dimensions of this new strategic partnership—a partnership which: one, will deal with the immediate threat of Iran; two, contain regional instability; and three, address global challenges and opportunities.

First, Iran. Stopping Iran's nuclear weapons program is the most important step the world can take to arrest the radical trends sweeping the Middle East. America and Israel have done much together to slow Iran's relentless pace. And yet, the nuclear centrifuges continue to spin. We must do more together to pressure the Iranian regime by deepening the impact of economic sanctions and creating greater diplomatic isolation.

We are glad that President Obama will soon be in Israel, and we urge him while he is there to restate what he said from this very platform one year ago. And I quote: "we will use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon." End quote.

We know that the key to our success on this front is the key to our success on every front. When America and Israel stand together, the chances for success are very high. That is why our message when we go to the Hill today—our message every day—is simply this: we will not stop until we stop Iran.

And if after all diplomatic and economic efforts, the mullahs still refuse to give up their nuclear ambitions, and Israel is compelled to respond to an Iranian nuclear program, we, America, must be unequivocal in our support of our ally.

And that is why we strongly support a Congressional Resolution which says the following: "If Israel is compelled to take military action in self-defense, the United States should stand with Israel and provide diplomatic, military, and economic support to our ally in its defense of its territory, people, and existence." This is what it means to have Israel's back!

In addition to stopping Iran, there is a second element to this strategic partnership. US-Israel cooperation to contain regional instability. Take Jordan. Beyond its own capabilities, who does Jordan's military rely upon? The United States and Israel. Look at Syria. What nations are working to contain the consequences of a regime in collapse? The United States, Jordan, and Israel. Turn to Egypt. When the Morsi regime works to keep the calm in the Sinai and Gaza, who helps?

The United States and Israel. Today, Egypt has no border integrity: not with Sudan to the south, nor with Libya to its west. Egypt's only secure border is the one it shares with Israel. And who shares America's commitment—fully and completely—to deny Iran a nuclear weapon? No one more than Israel. That is what links ally to ally: a common focus that is in our common interest.

Clearly the chaos in the Middle East will not magically be transformed into calm anytime soon.

We know that these are essentially internal problems. But the US-Israel partnership, if enhanced, offers the best chance to advance America's interests in the region.

To do that, we need to increase military and intelligence cooperation, enhance security assistance to Israel, increase missile defense cooperation, and further integrate Israel into America's Eastern Mediterranean strategy. All of this is needed to ensure Israel remains the one reliable anchor for America's interest in a tumultuous sea.

And finally, the possibilities are not limited to the Middle East. This new partnership can bring hope to the world. Under the framework, our two nations will be able to significantly increase our work together on a vast array of the world's biggest threats and challenges in counter terrorism, cyber security, homeland security, protecting our food supply, our water supply, working together toward education innovation, energy independence, medical breakthroughs, nanotechnology, and a cleaner environment.

Let me give you one example from today's headlines. In cyber security, there are countries trying to undermine America's economic and military infrastructure, trying to steal your identity and crumble our banking system all through cyber warfare. Israel has unique capabilities to partner with us, to repel these threats and protect us from further harm. This is but one example in an almost endless list.

So let me restate the three pillars of this strategic partnership: stopping Iran, containing regional instability, addressing global challenges and opportunities. Let me be clear. This will not happen overnight. All of us here must work day in and day out in the coming months and years to spread the word, persuade our decision makers that now is the time to create this new strategic partnership not only for America's sake, not just for Israel's needs but for our collective, global future.

When we combine capability with character—the ideals and values that define a nation—Israel, tiny as she is, stands—with the United States—among the very small number of nations on this Earth that share a commitment to freedom and democracy.

We are here in Washington to summon not only the courage to deal with the dangers of the moment but also the vision to lay the groundwork for the opportunities of the future. None of this will happen without us.

For the past two days we have told you—from this stage, in videos, in breakout sessions—stories. We shared with you the genius of inventor Amit Gofer who is allowing the paralyzed to walk, the near miraculous accomplishment of Danny Gold and his team who produced Iron Dome, which, every day, prevents the deaths of Israelis and Palestinians. We introduced you to Dr. Amir Ameedi who literally allows the blind to see. We told you about the men and women helping to lessen the suffering of those with Post Traumatic Stress, and the incredible commitment of Israelis whose know-how is helping to produce food in Ethiopia.

We told you these stories because they are incredible. We told you these stories because you should know about the innovation, the power of ideas, the determination of these individuals.

We told you these stories because genius should be celebrated for its own sake. But we also shared these stories as preparation for what we are about to do.

You see, when in a few moments, we depart this convention center and make our way to Capitol Hill, it is vital that we carry with us these stories. We must understand that we are not lobbying today for legislation. We are lobbying for life.

Aid to Israel, Strategic Partnership, Stopping Iran. I trust you all have your talking points. And you will need to make the arguments well. But, the power of your argument must be fueled by your recognition that "aid to Israel" is an investment measured in lives saved, deaths prevented, the preservation of a country whose contributions to science, medicine, and technology are nothing less than miraculous.

Major strategic partner is government speak for an Israeli engineer, American scientist working together to make sure we have fresh water to drink, clean air to breath, food that is safe to eat and a world that is free from terror.

I want all of you, Policy Conference veterans, first timers, students, to remember that the lobbying we are about to do is not a technical process. The real work, the ultimate task at hand to is to seize this moment and recognize that we are here this day to give our Congressman, our Senators, a gift: the gift of understanding, of knowledge. The gift of knowing that through our actions we are making America stronger, Israel safer, and our world better.

Thank you.