Well thank you, that was an overly kind introduction, but much appreciated. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be with this audience, which does really feel like family. I had the deep honor of being with you in New York, shortly before my family and I made the journey out here last summer. And we had a really I thought very moving opportunity to speak together and the conference presented us with a lovely plaque with a “Birkat Habait” in it which hangs proudly in the U.S. Ambassador’s residence giving Julie and me and our girls a very strong sense of the support that we know we have from this community, from the American Jewish community and I think by extension from all Americans as we undertake this mission on behalf of our country.
It is, as I said then, to this audience I can’t think of a higher honor—greater responsibility—but one that I cherish and welcome, than to be asked by the President to come and represent our country, the United States of America which we love so much, to the State of Israel, our great, deep friend and democratic ally, which so many Americans also love, but especially the American Jewish community feels so close to and such concern about.
That’s called hitting the jackpot for U.S. government service from my point of view. We got here last summer, and it’s been a whirlwind seven months, it’s hard to believe in fact, it’s only been seven months considering everything that has gone on. But it’s been not only a great professional challenge in a time of enormous historic events in this region that affect us, and affect Israel and affect the whole Middle East. But it’s been a great family adventure and we are treating it as such. We do live in a big house, and I guess a lot of you have probably been there, if not, we’ll make sure you get there next time you are in town, in Herzliya Pituach. We are borrowing it, but despite the trappings of the Ambassador’s life, we are trying to experience and enjoy Israel like any family with young children would do in addition to the official duties. So, we go to the beach, we go to the park, and we go to museums, and we go hiking, and biking and we found a lovely synagogue that we are regulars at every Shabbat. We have Shabbat dinner with many friends, Israeli and American friends every week, so this is as I said, it’s a personal privilege, it’s a great professional challenge and honor and responsibility, but it’s also a family adventure and I thank you all for the blessing you sent us off with.
I really came to this job obviously deeply involved already in the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship from the work I’ve been doing on the National Security Council staff, so in many ways it was a continuation of that work. But it was really with one very clear instruction from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. They said to me: “This relationship between the United States and Israel has been—it’s of historic importance, and it’s deep and strong and it’s fundamentally sound and we do so much together in so many areas. And all we want you to do is go make it better, go make it deeper and stronger, and closer.” So, you know, when you start here, the goal is to get to here. And that’s the spirit in which I’ve undertaken the work. It is a profoundly important relationship to us, the security partnership between our countries is extraordinary and has never been at the level it is currently at. The coordination on all the key issues in the Middle East is of great importance. Of course the values we share as two democracies really undergirds everything. I think we have a burgeoning economic relationship in the hi-tech sector and in energy, both natural gas and renewable energies, that’s going to add a third pillar to this relationship that been based on security and democratic values for so long. And we have, and you represent it, the closest of ties between our peoples—the people-to-people relationships between the American people and the Israeli people whether we’re talking about American Jews, but not only American Jews, many other communities in the United States with this country, are deep and profound and really give the strongest possible foundation for all of the work that the two governments do on a daily basis.
Now I would say, one of the most interesting things I’ve observed since I’ve been here, is the really fascinating demographic shifts and cultural and societal dynamism that are underway in Israel. And Israel today will look quite different in ten or fifteen years as new populations emerge, as demographic trends take it in different directions. Israeli democracy will travel through that path, and we have great confidence in Israeli democratic institutions, and the Israeli people to navigate them. But what is important to me is, as the U.S. Ambassador is to make sure that as those demographic and other cultural shifts take place, and as other shifts take place in our own country, that we keep the connections between the society as close as possible. We don’t want to find ourselves in ten or fifteen years with publics that have drifted apart in any way, we want to keep them as close, or even closer in that period of time as they are right now. So one of the things I have spent a lot of time on, is getting outside of the official channels of an ambassador, getting outside of the meeting rooms and government offices in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, although that’s very important that I spend a great deal of time on the bi-lateral diplomatic relationship. But to really spend as much time in maybe communities on the periphery, whether it’s the geographical periphery, or maybe the social periphery and small towns, Arad and Beit Shean, and Kiryat Gat and Nazareth and Bnei Brak, Placees that maybe the American Ambassador hasn’t spent as much time, but places where there are very important concentrations of Haredim and National Religious, and Russians and Arabs, and all the communities of Israel who need to be part of this relationship, need to believe in the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, need to invest in it, and if we don’t know them well enough, we want to get to know them better. And if they don’t know us well enough, we want to make sure they hear the American perspective on this relationship, why it’s so important.
So one of the things I encourage all of you to do when you travel here, as part of the conference, or in a personal capacity, or in any other capacity, and to encourage all of your friends and family who come to Israel to do is to really work on building those relationships outside of the typical—the usual channels—the Israelis who know us best, the Israelis who speak the best English. We know them, they are always going to be a big part of this relationship. But there are other Israelis who we have yet to get to know as well as we need to. So, I really encourage branching out in our own relationship building, and I know you leadership in that will be critical.
On the real core policy issues that we are dealing with, I think in many ways they underscore that point. We want this relationship to be as close and as strong as it is now, not in just two years or three years, but in fifteen or twenty years at the people-to-people level. We also want it to be in the security realm and in every other realm. So, our test of every policy that we have related to Israel, is does it further goal, the advancing Israel’s prosperity and status and survival as a strong secure Jewish democratic state. Now that’s the Israel that been such a great ally for the United States. That’s an Israel that has been the homeland and haven for the Jewish people. And that’s the Israel we want to see going into the future.
Of course the core of that commitment to Israel’s strong, secure Jewish democratic identity is our security partnership, and the United States’ absolutely unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, our commitment to ensure that Israel always has the means to defend itself by itself from any threat that it could encounter, that it has a qualitative military edge, that can defeat any combination of threats. These have been priorities of the President since the first day in office, and they have been borne out in our actions and in the partnership that has—was always strong—but has deepened and by the testimony of the military leaders of both countries, has never reached the levels that they are currently at. Of course it involves our annual military assistance package which is now over 3 billion dollars a year, which of course you and many others help support, and Congress supports, involves making sure Israel has access to much of our most sophisticated military equipment, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter which Israel will take possession of in 2016, if I’s not mistaken, and will be the only country to fly that aircraft in the Middle East. We’ve been partners in helping Israel develop its own domestic defense industry through joint technological developments and especially the great results there have been in the missile defense field. We have supported for some twenty or thirty years—yes, thirty years—I believe the Arrow Missile Defense System which is Israel’s defense against longer-range missiles, and I’ve had a chance to visit the air force base where that system is based. We are working with Israel on development of the David Sling System for the medium-range missiles. But of course the one that everyone knows about, and has really garnered the headlines in the last year, is the Iron Dome System. And the Iron Dome System is something I feel personally very proud of because it was a real focus of our efforts during the time I was in the White House. It goes back to when President Obama came here in July of 2008 as a presidential candidate, and visited Sderot which at the time of course was the main target of the Hamas and other organization missiles being launched out of Gaza. Of course, I’m sure you’ve all visited Sderot, unfortunately the main shooting targets are now farther north in Ashdod and Ashkelon and Beersheva. But of course we know how much Sderot was suffering in those years, and President Obama went, and he met families whose homes had been destroyed, visited them, met others who had been injured. And he said at the time, you know, if our commitment to Israel’s security means anything, it can only mean that we help Israel develop its capabilities and its qualitative military edge for some threat it might face in the future in trying to deter it, or be able to deal with that. That’s of course important, and we do that, but it has to mean we help Israel deal with the threats it faces right now, immediately, today. And that time and all throughout those years, and unfortunately still today, Israel faces today, the threat of short-range rockets and mortars being launched against civilian populations. Mostly from Gaza, but the threat obviously exists from Lebanon as well. And so, upon taking office, President Obama looked at what tools we had available to assist Israel in dealing with that threat, discovered that we had dome some work to help support the development of the Iron Dome System, but worked very hard to accelerate that and we did. This is an Israeli technology, and it’s Israeli innovation and ingenuity that deserves the credit for achieving this technological breakthrough, but it’s been with strong American support. The President requested and Congress provided an over $200 million additional above our annual military assistance package. That money has helped speed the development of the third and fourth Iron Dome Batteries—the third is already deployed, the fourth will soon be deployed—which have already made a big difference. We know that the success rate of that defense system is about 75% shot down thirty or forty missiles already. It has sophisticated radars, so it does not shoot when a missile is headed for an open area. And it has really changed the prospects of those missile strikes for those communities. It not only saves lives, it really is life-saving technology, not only saving the lives of those who are in the direct line of fire of the missiles, but it creates political space for the Israeli leadership to decide when and how it will choose to respond, rather than have its hand forced by a mass-casualty event that would really very much constrain its options. So it’s worth much more than the money that has been put into it.
One of the first things I did when I came here, was go to visit the Iron Dome Battery that was deployed near Ashkelon, learn exactly how it works, and I then went up to the North to the Rafael—the company that makes the missiles, the batteries and the interceptor missiles—got a briefing on it. Went to the production floor and watched the technicians—these very skilled technicians on the modified assembly line putting in every screw, and every wire and connecting all the intricate pieces of this very sophisticated technology, and I have to say, I felt a kind of pride that I really didn’t expect, because that’s your money, that’s our money, it’s my money, that’s U.S. tax dollars building what we can only call it life-saving technology that has made a difference in saving lives here. So, just one example among many of the depth of this security partnership.
There’s lots of other things we do to help keep Israel strong and secure, preventing actively combat the campaign of de-legitimization against Israel in the UN and in every other organization that goes on daily around the world. This is really central to our commitment to Israel’s security.
The issue of the day, as anybody who reads the papers knows of course, is the threat that’s posed by Iran, and the prospect of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. I have had in my time here, since mid-summer, a regular stream of very senior visitors from the United States government. Nearly every cabinet officer with a responsibility in this area has been here, most of their deputies have been here, and nearly all of their counter-parts have traveled to the United States to the extent that the consultations are going—just about every other week—there is a cabinet’s level visit in one direction or the other. That is exactly as it should be. When two allies who have a commitment to each others’ security or facing a very serious security challenge, that we’d be in that kind of close, high-level dialogue. Of course it’s daily, at other levels, my level and my colleagues that we are coordinating between our intelligence services who share a tremendous amount of information that has made both of us much smarter and much more knowledgeable about what is going on inside Iran, that between our militaries to make sure that they have done necessary contingency planning. And of course between our political leaderships to make sure that our policies are aligned. And I have to say whatever one reads in the newspapers, I cannot think of any issue on which we are better coordinated than the issue of Iran. The most recent work in that area was the visit of the National Security Advisor Tom Donilon who was here over the weekend leading a very senior interagency American team, meeting with their interagency counterparts on the Israeli side as well of course with the Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister. The kind of dialogue that ensued between us throughout that weekend, a long weekend of very detailed talks, really crystallized for me that there is no other country in world, there is no other relationship in the world where the senior leaders would invest that kind of time to make sure we have total coordination of our policy. And we do. We are in total coordination and agreement on the nature of this threat, on the dangers of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Of course it’s something that Israel rightly sees as an existential threat, yet poses a great threat to us, and our allies and our troops in this region. The prospect of Iran as state-sponsor of terror which arms organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah achieving a nuclear umbrella under which that terror campaign could be conducted is extraordinarily dangerous. The threat it could pose to international shipping in the Persian Gulf, the arms race it will almost certainly lead to in the Middle East with other countries competing to achieve a nuclear weapon. The threat to the global international non-proliferation system as Iran would be in open violation of its obligations under the NPT. All of these are reasons why it’s just too dangerous to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, to allow that regime which has proven itself to be so dangerous, and so irresponsible in its behavior to possess a weapon of that danger.
As the President of the United States has said over and over again, the United States is determined to prevent that from happening, determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And to that end, that is something else we of course are closely coordinated and share with Israel, but to that end, we are coordinated on a common strategy which is to build the maximum economic and diplomatic pressure and isolation of Iran, as quickly as possible to put that leadership in Iran in the position where they have to chose and make the choice to end that program. That is what we have been doing throughout the last three years, but it has taken a significant jump in the last several months. Congress passed and the President signed new sanctions at the end of last year, which are now, before they were even fully implemented, are already having an impact by persuading those countries that purchase Iranian oil to end or significantly reduce their purchases of Iranian oil. By persuading those countries that have had dealings or their private banks have had dealings with the Central Bank of Iran to end those transactions, by closing off other avenues that Iran can access the international financial system. The European Union has announced its own embargo on oil purchases of Iran. All this is having a really significant effect. It’s clear that Iran is under significant economic strain, its currency has been devalued by some 75%, it is having trouble making payments for basic commodities, it is having trouble maintaining its oil supply relationships with other countries who have been reliable customers, and are now searching for new suppliers, and we’re helping them find new suppliers. This is having a significant effect inside Iran. Now, it has not yet achieved the goal which is to get that nuclear program stopped. But we are continuing to build that pressure day-by-day, we think there is time to do that. It’s as I’ve said, for both us and for Israel this is the preferred strategy to achieve that all-important objective. It’s also true as the President has said, and as we know we are coordinated with our Israeli partners on that other options, all other options are on the table to achieve that goal. The achievement of the goal is the most important thing here. And so while the strategy is clear for now, other options are on the table, and more than that, the necessary planning has been done to ensure that those options are actually available, if at any time they become necessary. And so, these are all things that we are having a constant dialogue about between our governments. It’s the kind of dialogue I assure you, you who would want two allies facing a common security challenge to be having, is that quality, is that detail, it is intimate, and it is exactly what should be happening. It will continue when Prime Minister Netanyahu visits Washington for the AIPAC Conference in early March and meets with President Obama in about ten days time.
So, I feel very comfortable about the degree of coordination between us and the quality of this effort to coordinate our policies.
There is a lot else going on in this region. And I think I’m not going to go through all of it. I would say that we know we are facing historic changes in the Arab world. Obviously Egypt is today nothing like the Egypt of just a little over a year ago. And that’s a reality that I don’t think anyone could have prevented. It’s something that happened because the Egyptian people made their voice heard, and made a choice to change their government. And we are seeing it happening in other countries. It happened in Tunisia, it happened in Libya, it happened in Yemen, it is happening in Syria, and we think it’s only a matter of time till that government changes as well. And there is opportunity in these kinds of changes, these are transitions that are not going to take place over months, they are going to take place over years. And it is possible, although by no means guaranteed, and not something that we or anyone else could guarantee, that those transitions in some of the countries will lead to real democracies taking hold where people have their own rights respected, where people are able to practice democracy and exercise their universal rights as we know them: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Religion and Association, where women and minorities’ rights are respected, where international treaties and international obligations are respected. And of course we make that point very strongly to our partners in Egypt that a high priority, the highest priority in our relationship with them. In maintaining the partnership we’ve had with Egypt, and we want to continue to have, is ensuring that that treaty is respected. But of course there also is risk in these transitions, and we know that’s true, we know that extremists can – in historical examples of revolutions— often have hijacked transitions for at least a period of time, and become the dominant voices. We know that chaos can ensue, as could happen in Syria, or maybe already is happening to some degree in Syria. We know violence obviously can ensue. We know security relationships can be strained, and security concepts have to be revised. We know that new security challenges can emerge such as the terrorist threat that now exists in the Sinai which didn’t exist previously. And it’s a real serious threat to Israel. A very serious terrorist attack occurred shortly after I arrived last August. On August 18th, eight Israelis were killed, it could have been much, much worse. It led to some serious tension in the Israeli-Egyptian relationship which a few weeks later resulted in riots outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo that trapped six Israeli security officers inside. And it was through the intervention of the President and Secretary of Defense Paneta and a number of others in the government that we worked through that long night to ensure that those Israeli officers were able to emerge in one piece, and to preserve the Israeli-Egyptian relationship which was really hanging in the balance.
All of these are examples of the kinds of risks that can be associated with these transitions. And risks and opportunities can run concurrently at different times some can be higher, some can be lower. But we know those are real, and those are constant realities.
What we can do, and will do, is maintain again, the closest coordination with Israel to help ensure that we navigate these unchartered waters together. To help ensure that we are providing Israel with what it needs to mitigate risk and prepare for risk. To help ensure that we are making clear to the Arab publics who are finding their voice and whoever emerges to lead them, that we have certain principles about what a real democratic government looks like, what real irresponsible international behavior looks like, what the security partnerships that we want to have with these countries and other partnerships that we want to have, including economic partnerships look like and depend on, and using those elements of our policy as leverage to try our best to channel these transitions in the direction of opportunity, without guarantees, as I’ve mentioned.
Finally, I would say that we continue to work very hard even though it is less in the headlines perhaps, but I know you have been working on this to try to help get Israel and the Palestinians into serious direct negotiations with the goal of achieving a two-state solution. Nothing has changed about our understanding that a two-state solution is the only way to guarantee Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state. And we would be no friend to Israel if we did not make every effort to help them achieve that goal. A goal Prime Minister Netanyahu and several previous prime ministers have articulated as their goal. And that only comes about with the achievement of a peaceful Palestinian state achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.
You all visited Jordan earlier in the week. I thank you for doing that. Jordan has been tremendously effective and I’d say courageous in taking the step to sponsor the most recent rounds of talks. And we’ve tried to be as supportive as we can with the Jordanian effort working with our Quartet partners, working with Israel and the Palestinians to give those talks time to mature, to get past the preliminary exchanges that you would expect in those kind of talks, and give them enough time to get into the detail of give and take on territory and security, and ultimately on all the core issues. They have to be direct talks, they have to be without pre-conditions, these are clear principles that we and the Quartet agree on, we will oppose any effort by the Palestinians to try to take this issue back to the United Nations, veto where we have to, use other means where we don’t have a veto. And make clear that the path of direct negotiations is the only path to achieve this goal. That is the only way that Israelis and Palestinians can both achieve their own goals. (Applause). Meanwhile, we don’t want to lose the progress that has been achieved in the West Bank in the last number of years, where there has been impressive economic development, and there have been significant gains in security for both Israelis and Palestinians as the Palestinian Security Force has taken hold and become a real reliable partner to the IDF in terms of the establishment of governing institutions that are clean and effective and non-corrupt under Prime Minister Fayyad. His efforts and efforts by the Israeli government to open check-points and improve economic opportunity have contributed, and of course the security partnership has contributed to that improvement, even in a period when negotiations were stalled, or having trouble making significant progress. We don’t want to lose that progress that has happened on the ground. Those remain key building-blocks to an eventual successful negotiation and the achievement of a Palestinian state. We continue to work with our Congress to try to make sure that all the assistance that we can provide is available to try to support that progress.
So, I am going to end there, and once again, I’ll take some questions. But once again, I want to thank the Conference of Presidents, and David and Malcolm for your –always, for your friendship and hospitality, and really everybody here. I definitely feel like I’m with “mishpachah”, and I appreciate the opportunity. (Applause)
QUESTION: Let me add a few more comments so we are all on the safe side, and also to advise the Ambassador. It was not by chance that on Sunday night that this mission started with a meeting with the Prime Minister. And it closes with a meeting with the American Ambassador. With one little blip, and that is that the family is going to have dinner after this, and you all are welcome to join us because the dinner will be conversation and a “schmooze” over what we learned, what we heard having listened to the military, the intelligence, the politicians, even just before you came in it was meeting with President (Peres). So, we’re loaded, we are loaded with information. And then we didn’t hear anything from you about Egypt, or Syria, or what the prospects may be, what the dangers are, what should we be thinking about. And I think that’s something that you may be getting from the Q & A. But in any event if it doesn’t come there, I would offer that as part of a question. And if it’s omitted, I’ll come back to the mic. for my questions. Let me remind you again, for those of you who haven’t heard me at the Podium before, let me tell you, I am wicked, really wicked when it comes to speeches that don’t start with a question. So, please bear that in mind.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, I as everyone here, feels extremely proud that have you as our Ambassador here. (Applause). We’ve heard a lot of officials, and military analysts, and politicians, and journalists in the last couple of days. And one of the things that struck me that I’d like to get your reaction to, and I’d like to share with you, is that throughout there was repeated points where people expressed misgivings and doubts about American leadership in the region. At one point one official said: “I’ve given up hope on America.” I’ve got to tell you, I got a bite in the gut when he said that. I was wanted to share that with you, and get your reactions to that.
AMBASSADOR: I have not given up hope on America. We are facing really unprecedented, historic, difficult and very hard to predict changes and challenges in this region. And so, I think it’s understandable that people may look for an answer, or a controlling element, or a place to assign responsibility or something. It’s understandable, it’s understandable. We remain, I’m very confident, not only the leader in this region, but the world’s leader, economically, militarily, politically. The evidence of that is that whenever these events happen, and I think we have to be honest that despite that leadership, there are events that are beyond our control. And we will not be the determiner of who governs Egypt, or who governs Syria, or who governs Libya. The Egyptian people and the Syrian people and the Libyan people will be the determiner of those outcomes. And so, there are uncertainties and people look for an answer. But I think the evidence of our leadership is that whenever these crises occur, people turn to the United States. And they turn to the United States for security, as of course our partnership with Israel’s security suggests although that it’s very much a mutually beneficial security partnership, but our partnerships with the Gulf states who we have significantly strengthened their ability to deal with the regional challenges that they face. The leadership we have provided to build this unprecedented campaign of economic pressure that is really having bite and hurt inside Iran. Our ability to bring some assistance to bear to try to provide coaching and leadership for newly emerging democracies in Tunisia for example, or even today in Tunis a conference of Syrian opposition groups who we are working to try to help gel into a cohesive opposition alternative to Asad. All of these things that go on, only go on with U.S. leadership, and our allies throughout the world turn to us, and I think we provide it. Do we have limits on our abilities? Yes, we don’t control everything. Do we have limits on our resources? Yes, we do. And of course everybody knows of our own economic challenges. But I have great confidence that we are going to continue to play that leadership role, people will continue to turn to us, and we’ll continue to answer the call.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, not withstanding that the substantive accomplishments and gauges that you mention mentioned concerning Israeli-American cooperation, many very disturbed journalists, military people, think tank people have expressed this opening of daylight as evidence for instance by Defense Secretary Paneta making predictions as to when Israel might attack, General Dempsey talking about Israel’s relative capability. These things are very disturbing to us, and they suggest that there is an opening of daylight, a great deal of difference between our nations that creates a very great opportunity for the Iranians to feel an upper-hand in this situation.
AMBASSADOR: Well, I’ll just return to what I said, is that I don’t think any U.S. official has been quoted making such predictions, but there is a lot written, and a lot said on some of these subjects. Probably too much! I think frankly, our government and the Israeli government and all of us who are focused on maximizing the pressure on Iran, and using that tool to ensure that Iran doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons, would probably benefit from a little less talk rather than more around some of these issues. And so that’s probably something we all can work on. But I would say it’s often a case of those who talk, don’t know, and those who know, don’t talk. Much of what is written on this subject is pure speculation. Much of it is wrong, and the kind of coordination that I described, I think is an accurate depiction of the discussions which I sat through about 48 hours of this weekend and can tell you they don’t resemble what is often written in the newspaper.
QUESTION: Hi Ambassador, Josh Katsen from Camera. This is a serious question, not a loaded question. I’m not trying to trap you into something. My question is: how do we know when the sanctions have worked? At some point, if we increase the sanctions, as we’re doing, do we expect Iran to say:”Ouch! This really hurts, and we will stop our nuclear program, and we really mean it, we really promise.” And then we’ll pull off the sanctions and we’ll believe them. We tried that in North Korea for 15 years, and we were led around and made concessions after concessions while they continued to develop. And people in your own Administration have said that the Iranians have been lying to us for years. So how can we ever know that the sanctions have worked? It seems the only time we’ve ever taken out nuclear power, has been through military force.
AMBASSADOR: Well, we do think that this form of economic pressure which has really never been tested—there is not country that has ever been subject to this kind of economic pressure, diplomatic isolation—is the best strategy to achieve this goal. Certainly the preferred strategy, and that’s true. I’d say that’s something that we’re in quite firm agreement with Israel about, but that other options have to be available. Now, does that require trust in Iran? Not really. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and as such, even today, is subject to IAEA inspections. Now, sometimes they don’t cooperate with those inspectors. It just happened this week. That tells us something. But there is a lot that we will know if Iran takes certain actions, and that would be true whether or not there had been a prior agreement. Certainly, that’s already true now, and even if Iran were to say – it’s very hypothetical—that their nuclear program is ending, it would have to be completely verifiable. And if it wasn’t, that would not be obviously something that we could count on. This is so important to achieve, this is why the President has made clear that he has all options on the table, and the necessary planning done to make sure those options are available. And so, this is what we’re currently working on strategy we’re working on. And if it doesn’t work, then we’ll have to look at other possibilities.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, my name is Steve Goldberg from the ZOA. First I want to thank you for making the long drive here, and express the hope that someday soon it will be a much shorter drive! (Laughter and applause). My question is with regard to the Palestinian Authority. We see not only refusal to engage in negotiations and attempts to go unilaterally to the United Nations, but we now see them climbing into bed with Hamas. And whether or not they finally consummate the act, has it not gone far enough that the United States ought to be taking some action to impose consequences on Fatah for doing so?
AMBASSADOR: Well, there have been a lot of announcements about Palestinian reconciliation agreements at various times over the last number of years. Most of them have remained announcements, and have never actually been implemented. What seemed to be a major announcement in Doha about three weeks ago, to my knowledge, nothing significant has been done to implement it yet. So, I think we have to see what actually emerges in reality. Our view on Palestinian reconciliation really hasn’t changed, in that we would have to evaluate a Palestinian government based on what it looks like. And not based on what a press conference describes about it. The current Palestinian government remains the one we have worked with, the one that we and Israel sees as the partner it wants to negotiate with, and the one in which Prime Minister Fayyad has accomplished all the institution-building progress that I mentioned. If there were a new government, we of course have to look at it, and there are very clear tests in US law. It’s clear to us that a Palestinian government that is going to be a partner for peace has to recognize Israel, and renounce violence and abide by past agreements. So that’s very clear. It’s also clear to us, by the way, that our policy and our understanding and our view on policy on Hamas has not changed. Hamas is a foreign terrorist organization, and it continues to use violence and terror to target innocent civilians. So, all of those are consistent features of our policy and for now, we’re dealing with the Palestinian Authority as it is, if that changes, of course then we will have to make an assessment.
QUESTION: We have come to the end of the Q & A, and the last person who got on line …..
QUESTION: Mindy Stein, Emunah of America. It’s nice to see you again, and thank you for continuing to strengthen our wonderful relationship between Israel and the United States. What is the United States’ current policy and attitude towards the proposed alliance between Hamas and the Palestinians. And if that alliance takes place, what if any difference will that make in the policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians and the Israelis?
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, it’s a pleasure to see you here, we miss you in Washington, but we’re happy you’re here. My question is for many of us, we travelled to Brussels first. In Brussels we heard a lot about Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, and the deligitimization of the State of Israel. And now, we have been here. One of our speakers said that the word “deligitimization” was an awkward word—that was someone from the army yesterday or the day before. My question for you is, what are you finding about the—what you’re hearing from your colleagues across the world and what are you doing and the effort of deligitimization in particular as it relates to anti-Semitism as well. Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m Jerry Platt American Friends of Likud. I was wondering what the Administration’s policy is regarding Jerusalem? Four years ago I heard the President-elect say that Jerusalem would remain united and undivided. The following day he retracted that and said he had misspoken to Charlie Gibson on ABC. What is his current policy on the city?
AMBASSADOR: I think the Hamas question, I’ve largely covered in my previous, but just to review, Hamas is a terrorist organization under US law. And we don’t believe that’s changed, and it continues to target civilians with violence. We believe any Palestinian Authority that we could work with, and that could be a partner for peace has to recognize Israel and renounce violence, and abide by previous agreements. The current Palestinian government meets those terms, it has, and Israel seeks to negotiate with it. We see Prime Minister Fayyad and President Abbas as the partners that have helped make the progress that has occurred on the West Bank. If there is a change, we’d have to evaluate it.
Deligitimization and anti-Semitism, you know, there is a strong connection between the two, and I do think there are worrying signs of a sort of a new return maybe of some of those themes that we wish would have been buried in history. We focus very closely on combating attempts to delegitimize Israel at the United Nations. We did that by trying to make sure that the Goldstone Report was not advanced. We did that by withdrawing from the Durban Conference and its various follow-on events, because what we have found is that is that often those types of numerous examples of places where we have blocked or done our very best to block, or withdrawn where we couldn’t block from anti-Israel initiatives in the United Nations. Because we found that those are really tools of questioning Israel’s very legitimacy, not trying to advance toward a particular policy goal. And sometimes it is true that those efforts are married with outright anti-Semitism and we have a very capable special envoy to combat anti-Semitism. Hannah Rosenthal, I’m sure many of you know, who is really our point person on that, and spent a lot of time in Europe, and I think some time trying to deal with the Muslim world as well to try to get government leadership to eradicate those voices that are trying to bring those themes back into currency.
U.S. policy on Jerusalem has not changed in many years, and it is that Jerusalem is a final status issue that the parties have agreed needs to be resolved in negotiations. And that’s what we believe, is that its status will have to be determined in negotiations.
Thank you very much.