Thank you for having me here today. I always appreciate the opportunity to speak before a friendly group, and this is a friendly group in the truest sense of the word.
We live in an age where friendship has become easy. With the click of a button, you have friended a person.Those friends might be mere acquaintances, or maybe business associates. But they are rarely friends in the truest sense.
Borrowing from Aristotle, America’s friendship with Israel is not based in mere utility. It is grounded instead in those ideas that our citizens hold dear.
This is not to deny that America’s relationship with Israel is a helpful one. Our countries have a complex defense security relationship. We share technology, tactics, and procedures. Our countries are both targeted by Islamic terrorists that seek the destruction of our cities and our citizens, and much of what we know about dealing with this terrorist threat comes from our Israeli allies. Our countries cooperate in the gathering of vital intelligence, with the Mossad and our own intelligence agencies having vital working relationships.
Most important, however, is the example that Israel provides to the region and the world as a free and prosperous liberal democracy. It is on that ground that the United States and Israel have forged their closest friendship, as countries committed to the same universal principles of personal liberty and equal rights.
Ultimately, it is this shared commitment that is the biggest threat to the region’s autocratic and theocratic dictatorships, leading them to plot against the American and Israeli people. The threats Israel faces are the threats the United States faces. Whether it is Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or these groups’ benefactor — Iran — we share a common foe.
Given this friendship, I was aggravated by President Obama’s careless remarks last week. And aggravated is putting it mildly.
Quite simply, the President’s statements, no matter how far he tries to walk them back, needlessly undermined Israel’s security.
This is not hyperbole. We all know both the 1949 and 1967 boundaries placed Israel in a precarious military situation. It is inconceivable to me that the President believes Israel will be more secure if the pre-1967 boundaries were restored.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correctly stated in a friendly and appropriate correction to the President’s remarks, the 1947 and 1967 lines are not boundaries of peace. They are boundaries of repeated war.
As you well know, if the 1967 boundaries were restored, parts of Israel’s territory would only be nine miles wide. This is the type of precarious geographic situation that invited aggression in the past and would do so again.
The President seems to have forgotten the lesson of the 1973 War, when Israel almost lost the Golan Heights to a massive Syrian armored attack. The Golan Heights are desired by Israel’s enemies because they would put much of northern Israel well within artillery range.
Apparently, the Syrian Army knows what the President has not been able to fathom — always seize the high ground.
The President’s call for a return to these militarily indefensible lines caused significant harm to Israel’s national security by undermining her negotiating position at future peace settlement talks.
And as the President drives wedges between the United States and Israel, our common foe, Iran, grows considerably stronger and more capable. I am particularly concerned by Iran’s ballistic missile program. The Iranians proceed apace with a missile program that is a threat to Israel and the world. With the Iranian surrogates of Hezbollah and Hamas attacking Israel at its borders very day, it is a mystery to me why the President would risk being seen as distancing himself from Israel, a staunch ally and friend.
Iran's obvious goal is to establish strategic dominance over the entire region. Their relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology is an existential threat. The world cannot allow a nuclear-armed Iran.
Iran already has a conventional weapons capability to hit U.S. and allied troops stationed in the Middle East and parts of Europe. If Tehran were permitted to develop nuclear weapons, this threat would increase dramatically.
A nuclear-armed Iran would likely embolden its already aggressive foreign policy, resulting in greater confrontations with the international community and support for extremists. Iran is already one of the world's leading state sponsors of terrorism through its financial and operational support for groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and others. Iran could potentially share its nuclear technology and know-how with these extremist groups and others hostile to the United States and the West.
The Middle East remains an essential source of energy for the United States and the world. Already, Iran's military posture has led to increases in arms purchases by its neighbors. A nuclear-armed Iran would likely spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would further destabilize this volatile and vital region. Interrupted access to essential energy supplies could threaten the viability of the American and world economies.
I am proud to be a friend of Israel and her citizens. Israel too often finds herself alone in the world, unjustly singled out by the left as a nation uniquely without the moral authority to defend itself.
From my perspective, Israel does not need to apologize to anyone for defending itself against those who would do her harm, and I will always stand by Israel as she seeks to protect her citizens against terrorists and their state sponsors.
I am honored to be on the Host Committee that will be welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu when he speaks before a Joint Session of Congress later today.
And I am proud to be introducing a concurrent resolution along with my colleague Senator Joseph Lieberman later this week affirming that it is the policy of the United States to support Israel in maintaining its secure, recognized, and defensible borders, and that a return to the 1949 or 1967 borders is contrary to United States policy and our national security.
The United States must stand by Israel. With his remarks last week, President Obama undermined her. Israel faces consistent unprovoked aggression by longtime supporters of terrorism.
But Israel is not a victim. All she asks is the ability to defend herself and for free people to support that right to self-defense.
This is no time for the United States to distance itself from Israel, and I will do everything I can to affirm Israel’s territorial integrity and ability to protect her citizens against the unprovoked attacks of terrorist and state actors.
Israel is a true friend. This friendship might not always be easy. But it is a friendship that must be cherished, nourished, and maintained.