The following is an edited version of the speech delivered on Sunday by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, to this week’s 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.
I stand here, before you, a hopeful man – poud to be Jewish, proud to be Israeli, proud to be there at the birth of Israel, proud to have served it for 65 years, proud of our alliance with the United States. Israel, like America, was conceived as an idea; born in defiance of history; creating a new world by drawing on the values of the past and the innovations of the futureâ€¦.
Fate placed me in the eye of the storm. I was 11 years old when my beloved grandfather, Rabbi Tzvi Melzer, accompanied me to the train station on my way to Israel. He hugged me and whispered in my ear only three words, “Shimonâ€¦stay Jewish.” Those were his last words to me. I never saw him again.
In 1942, when the Nazis arrived to his village, they forced my grandfather, together with the remaining Jews, into the wooden synagogue and set it on fire. No one survived. Not one. What remained was my grandfather’s legacy, his last words to me: “Stay Jewish.”
â€¦I was privileged to work with the father of our nation, my mentor, David Ben-Gurion. For me, Ben Gurion’s great leadership [coupled] with my grandfather’s legacy became my compass. That compass is comprised of four core values: our moral code; our pursuit of peace and security; our quest for knowledge; our alliance with America.
The moral code – the return to the Book and its values – enabled the Jewish people to survive for 4,000 years. Not because of quantity, [but] because of quality; not due to thousands of guns, but due to Ten Commandments. We are guided by the call of our prophets. To me, it means to be just, to do justice, to never deny justice to othersâ€¦.
The pursuit of peace, for us, is not a passing opportunity; it is a moral imperative. It is the tenet of our national security. To make peace, Israel must be strong. Let me assure you, Israel is strongâ€¦.
The Middle East is undergoing its greatest storm, with horrible bloodshed in Syria, where a tyrant is killing his people, killing children. I admire the courage of the Syrian people. We wish them peace and freedom. In spite of the storm, we have to reach out to the young generation in the Arab world, to those who strive for freedom, democracy, and peace. The Palestinians are our neighbors for life. Peace can and must be achieved, a peace based on a Two-State Solution: A Jewish state, Israel, [and] an Arab state, Palestine.
It was accepted by past and present Israeli prime ministers and American presidents – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. The principle of the Two-State solution is a paramount Israeli interest.
We want to preserve an Israel that is Jewish, democratic, and attractive. I meet from time to time with [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Salam] Fayyad. They need and want peace. I believe that peace is possible. They are our partners for peace. Not Hamas.
A peace that is a dream for both of us is a nightmare for the ayatollahs in Iran. Iran is an evil, cruel, morally corrupt regime. It is based on destruction, and is an affront to human dignity. Iran is the center, the sponsor, the financer of world terror. Iran is a danger to the entire world. It threatens Berlin, as well as Madrid; Delhi, as well as Bangkokâ€¦.Iran’s ambition is to control the Middle East, so it can control a major part of the world’s economy.
It must be stopped. And it will be stopped.
Israel experienced the horrors of war. It does not seek it. Peace is always our first option. But, if we are forced to fight, trust me, we shall prevail.
President Obama is leading and implementing an international complex and decisive policy, imposing economic and political sanctions against Iran. President Obama made it clear that the United States will not permit Iran to become nuclear; that containment is not a sustainable policy; [that] all options are on the table.
The United States and Israel share the same goal – to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. There is no space between us. Our message is clear: Iran will not develop a nuclear weaponâ€¦.
America was, is, and will remain the indispensable leader of the free world. The indispensable friend of our people. Today more than ever, the world needs America.
I have had the privilege to meet all American presidents in the last 50 years, Democrats and Republicans. I was strongly impressed by their deep commitment, their care for Israel. That commitment was – and is – bipartisanâ€¦.
I first met President Barack Obama, our great friend, when he was a senator from Illinois. I saw before me a born leader. His care and devotion to Israel’s security were evident.
Mr. President, I know your commitment to Israel is deep and profound. Under your leadership, security cooperation between the United States and Israel has reached its highest level.
â€¦[W]e have a friend in the White House. [President Obama] reflects the values that make America great and make Israel secure. Thank you, President Obama, on behalf of my people.
Soon, I will return home. Great challenges and promising opportunities await us. Thanks to your love and commitment and America’s great friendship, I return home much more hopeful, much more encouraged. Thank you very much.
God bless America. God bless Israel.