Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the 2014 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, on Tuesday, the final day of the conference. Last year the prime minister addressed the AIPAC conference, the largest annual event for the pro-Israeli US lobby, via satellite from Jerusalem.
Netanyahu pokes fun at his ‘red lines’
“I’ve come here to draw a clear line. You know that I like to draw lines. Especially red ones. But the line I want to draw today is the line between life and death, between right and wrong, between the blessings of a brilliant future and the curses of a dark past,” Netanyahu says.
Netanyahu describes visit to Syrian field hospital
Netanyahu says he heard from a wounded Syrian in a field hospital that Israel set up in the Golan:
“All these years Assad lied to us, they told us Iran is our friend, Israel is our enemy. But Iran is killing us, and Israel, Israel is saving us.”
“Israel is humane, Israel is compassionate, Israel is a force for good,” Netanyahu emphasizes.
We must be on right side of moral divide
“Iran continues to stand unabashedly on the wrong side of the moral divide, and that’s why we must stand on right side of that divide,” Netanyahu tells the crowd, drawing applause.
Netanyahu compares Israel to Iran
Netanyahu contrasts Israel’s humanitarian efforts with Iran. While Israel sends delegations to support victims of natural disasters, Iran executes political prisoners, imprisons thousands, oppresses its citizens, Netanyahu says.
Iran says it only wants a peaceful nuclear program, so why is it building a heavy nuclear reactor? Iran says it has nothing to hide, so why is banning inspectors from its sites? Netanyahu asks.
Iran still a nuclear duck
PM brings up talks with Obama held a day earlier, says Iran must be kept from having capacity to even make a weapon, calling to get rid of centrifuges, heavy water program, and divulge details of its program.
Prime minister adds other countries can have nuclear program without secrets and centrifuges, but reiterates that Iran wants military nuke program.
And then comes the reprise of his duck line, calling Iran a nuclear duck, which draws only a weak response.
Guess some jokes are only good once.
Iran will bring nuclear proliferation; we will not be brought to brink of extinction again
I believe letting Iran enrich uranium would open up a Pandora’s box of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and around the world, he tells the crowd, making the pitch again that Iran is not just a threat to Israel but to everyone.
That line would probably work better at the UN. Here they actually care mostly about Israel.
“We will never be brought to the brink of extinction again!” Netanyahu says with great aplomb, drawing great applause.
“I will do whatever I must do to defend the Jewish State of Israel.”
More sanctions on Iran
Makes familiar pitch for more pressure, more sanctions on Iran. Says it will make war less likely.
Unfortunately for the PM, AIPAC has been pretty careful about toeing the Obama administration line that sanctions could actually hurt P5+1 talks.
Peace with Palestinians will ‘catapult’ regional development
The PM switches to the Israeli-Palestinian talks. Says Israel wants peace already. Many Arab leaders realize Israel is not an enemy, and that peace with the Palestinians would create open and thriving relationships, allowing for Israeli innovation and a regional economy that could “catapult the area forward,” solving water and energy problems.
‘It’s time to recognize Jewish state,’ Netanyahu says
“We all have so much to gain from peace,” Netanyahu says, thanking John Kerry for his efforts. Says the sides are working day and night in peace talks, and he has the bags under his eyes to show for it.
But he also makes sure to forcefully remind Palestinians of the Jewish ties to the land, specifically sites in West Bank.
“Palestinians must be prepared to recognize the Jewish state,” he says, drawing applause.
“President Abbas, recognize the Jewish state and in doing so you will be telling your people the Palestinians … the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute. You would be telling Palestinians to abandon the dream of flooding Israel with refugees or amputating Negev or Galilee, … make clear that you are ready to end the conflict. No excuses, no delays; it’s time.”
Netanyahu’s not a betting man, won’t gamble with security of Jewish state
We cannot bet the security of Israel on our fondest hopes. In the Middle East, that’s usually a losing bet.
Cites international peacekeepers in Gaza, Sinai, Golan Heights, but says they’ve done pretty much nothing to keep areas from arming.
Says peace with Palestinians will come under constant attack from Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and others.
“As long as peace is under assault the only force that can be depended on is force defending its own home, the Israeli army, the IDF,” he says, to applause.
Says he won’t gamble with the security of the Jewish state.
BDS will fail, PM predicts
Netanyahu then addresses the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement, saying it will fail.
“One movement that’s definitely on the wrong side of the moral divide is the movement to boycott Israel, the so-called BDS.”
Says countries around world are flocking to Israel (more ducks?) as are “superpowers” like Apple, Google, Facebook…
“BDS boycott group is not going to stop that any more than Arab boycott movement could stop Israel from becoming a technological power.”
Says Israel’s best economic days are ahead of it.
It should be noted that Netanyahu will later today make a trip to Silicon Valley to woo those same companies.
‘How could anyone fall for BS of BDS?’
Makes a joke about Israelis not being shy about expressing criticism. It’s “on steroids,” he says.
Moving along, he says BDS is not legitimate criticism.
“BDS is nothing but a farce,” he says, noting that academics are boycotting the one country in the region where universities have academic freedom, protects Christians and all religions.
Says Middle East not a nice place for journalists, but in Israel there’s a free press, lots of happy gays, and women in high positions.
“How could anyone fall for the BS in BDS,” he asks, breaking out his potty mouth.
‘Scarlett, I do give a damn’
Netanyahu declares BDS just the latest in long history of anti-Semitic attempts to boycott and besmirch Jews, which draws some applause.
“Those who wear BDS label should be treated the same we treat any anti-Semite or bigot. … the boycotters should be boycotted.”
Unveils real meaning of BDS acronym:
Bigotry, dishonesty and shame, and calls for applause for the lovely Scarlett Johannsen. Crowd only too happy to oblige.
Pulls out a reference from Gone with the Wind. “Scarlett, I do give a damn.”
America and Israel stand for life
Netanyahu quotes Deuteronomy, in Hebrew, a quote about choosing good over evil.
Never forget, American and Israel stand for life, PM says, drawing up to a crescendo, and drawing some nice applause, waving and saying thank you.
‘I have set before you life and death’
The full quote Netanyahu pulled out of Deuteronomy:
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants.”
The quote is part of what is known as the admonishment, when God tells the Jews all the bad things that will happen to them if they stray.
Of course if they choose life, they get rain, and other good stuff.
Twitter reacts to Netanyahu speech
Some quick takes from twitteratti on the speech, who found it to be less than fiery.
Netanyahu remarks to AIPAC less apocalyptic than he has been in the past.
— Laura Rozen (@lrozen) March 4, 2014
All the usual elements were there – Iran, extinction, BDS etc – but his was a kinder, gentler Netanyahu speech #AIPAC14
— Chemi Shalev (@ChemiShalev) March 4, 2014
Netanyahu bashing BDS. What he's saying? BDS is getting stronger, we are taking it seriously & we don't know what to do about it.
— Remi Kanazi (@Remroum) March 4, 2014
And on to LA
Netanyahu will head from Washington to the West Coast today, where he will meet in Los Angeles with Jewish leaders and Hollywood execs (no, this is not repetitive).
He is scheduled to return to Israel on Wednesday.
What’s really eating Netanyahu?
And that brings us to the end of the liveblog. Thanks for following along, and one last Twitter take.
Aside from noting "good meetings" with Obama, Biden, and Kerry, Bibi barely mentioned POTUS. Was he miffed by @JeffreyGoldberg's interview?
— Mark Landler (@MarkLandler) March 4, 2014