The US message was one of reconciliation and unity, underscoring Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security and emphasizing the strong US-Israel alliance.
US National Security Advisor Susan Rice and US Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power both addressed the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Monday, serving as representatives of the Obama administration.
There were initial reports that the White House would send only a low-level official to the prominent pro-Israel event due to the disagreement between Washington and Jerusalem over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress. In past years, it was usually the president or vice-president who addressed the conference.
Rice and Power were subsequently chosen, speaking to the 16,000 participants on behalf of the Obama administration.
Their message was one of reconciliation and unity between the US and Israel, both underscoring Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security and emphasizing the strong US-Israel alliance. “That’s the way it’s going to stay,” Rice said.
Rice, who last week castigated the Israeli leader for accepting an invitation to address Congress, allocated a large segment of her address to defending the administration’s attempt to resolve the Iranian nuclear threat through diplomacy.
“The question now is whether we can achieve a comprehensive deal – a good deal,” Rice stated. “A bad deal is worse than no deal.” “If that is the choice, there will be no deal,” she added.
Rice: Iran Cannot Unlearn Nuclear Expertise
A demand that Iran forego its domestic enrichment capacity entirely “is neither realistic nor achievable,” she said.
“Simply put, that is not a viable negotiating position,” she continued. “Nor is it even attainable. The plain fact is, no one can make Iran unlearn the scientific and nuclear expertise it already possesses,” and therefore, ” even our closest international partners in the P5+1 do not support denying Iran the ability ever to pursue peaceful nuclear energy – if that is our goal.”
Rice alluded to the administration’s opposition to Netanyahu’s pending speech in Congress, saying “Soundbites won’t stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Strong diplomacy backed by pressure can.”
Rice said she understood why “Israelis view this [a nuclear Iran] as an existential threat, but this is not simply a challenge for Israel. It is a danger to the entire world, including the United States.”
In conclusion, she stated: “We have Israel’s back, come hell or high water.”
‘US-Israeli Partnership Transcends Politics’
Power also underscored the American commitment to Israel’s security, stating, “there will never be a sunset to America’s commitment to Israel’s security, never.”
Relating to recent tensions between Jerusalem and Washington, she declared: “We believe firmly that Israel’s security and the US-Israeli partnership transcends politics and always will. The bond between the US and Israel is still a national commitment. And it should never be a partisan matter.”
For example, she pointed to several instances in which the US defended Israel at the UN. “It is bitterly unjust that the UN – founded on the idea that all nations be treated equally – is often used to treat Israel unequally,” she said.
“Our commitments to the State of Israel are bedrock commitments rooted in shared fundamental values and strengthened through bipartisan support,” Power proclaimed.
Netanyahu echoed her sentiments in his address to the conference: “Our friendship will weather the current disagreement as well to grow even stronger in the future. And I’ll tell you why: Because we share the same dreams. Because we pray and hope and aspire for that same better world. Because the values that unite us are much stronger than the differences that divide us – values like liberty, equality, justice, tolerance, compassion.”
“Israel and the United States will continue to stand together because America and Israel are more than friends,” he declared. “We’re like a family. We’re practically mishpocha. Now, disagreements in the family are always uncomfortable, but we must always remember that we are family.”