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The White House
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden to the 2014 Saban Forum

The Willard Hotel

Washington, D.C.


1:10 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  We're a few minutes late because I was in the back with Haim.  I was interviewing for a place on one of his many networks he owns.  So I don't know how I did, but we’ll talk about it later.

Look, folks, it’s a delight to be here.  And, Joe, it’s a delight to see you.  I haven’t seen Joe Lieberman in such a long time, and, Hadassah.  Joe’s chair in the Senate, seat in the Senate was directly in front of mine for a number of years when Joe was there.  And every time Joe would get up to speak, I’d whisper in his ear, say it ain’t so, Joe.  (Laughter.)  Say it ain’t so.  It’s good to see you, Joe.

And, Nita, it’s good to see you.  I shouldn’t probably do this -- Robert Wexler is here I’m told, an old, old buddy.  And I see Sandy.  It’s hard to see in this light.  And Dan Shapiro.  There are so many good friends that are here.

Before I begin, I’d like to say a brief word about the failed rescue mission that occurred yesterday.  As, with all of you I’m sure,  our prayers are with the families of Luke Somers, who was murdered yesterday by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

We, [and] the intelligence community worked very, very hard and relentlessly with the government to try to figure out how we could rescue Luke, who was a photo-journalist. Like Dan Pearl and Steven Sotloff and James Foley, and so many other brave women and men who’ve traveled from the safety of this country into harm’s way to tell the stories of the lives of others faraway- a noble mission. 

The truth of the matter is since the conflict really began involving us in almost over 10 years, the percentage of journalists and Foreign Service officers who’ve been killed is almost as high on a percentage basis as some of our military missions.

And to state the obvious, the women and men who -- of the Special Forces, who were engaged in these two rescue missions did an incredible job and inflicted serious damage on the captors.  But this time they were unable to save Luke.

But I think that we should also note, the President and I are grateful to the Yemeni government for their cooperation in these efforts to fight the terrorists. 

We can only -- I’ll speak for myself, I can only imagine how Luke’s parents feel today.  Murdered in the second attempt, came so close.  This is a despicable crime.  And we mean what we say when we say from -- speaking for the intelligence community, the military, the government as a whole, we will be relentless in our efforts to bring to justice those who have caused -- some already have been brought to justice in the raid.  But there’s much more to do.  It’s a tragic reminder of the violence we face in the Middle East and a potent reminder of what Israelis face every day.

Haim, members of the Israeli Cabinet, Cabinet ministers, party leaders, old friends, members of the diplomatic corps, it’s a pleasure to look out and see so many old faces, people I’ve worked with -- and I hate to admit this -- for over 40 years to make good on our commitment to guarantee a secure nation-state of Israel that is secure, survivable and is -- I’ve said before, if there weren’t an Israel, we’d have to invent one.  If there weren’t an Israel -- we always talk about Israel from this perspective as if we're doing some favor.  We are meeting a moral obligation, but it’s so much more than a moral obligation.   It’s overwhelmingly in the self-interest of the United States of America to have a secure, democratic friend, a strategic partner like Israel.  As I said, it’s no favor.  It’s an obligation, but it’s also a strategic necessity. 

Israel today is the strongest nation in the Middle East.  But it bothers me sometimes -- I remember when I first got here as a kid, a 29-year-old kid, Israel was very much looked upon by the rest of the world as being somewhat fragile, sitting on the banks of the Mediterranean with millions of Arabs looking at them and wanting to see them gone, et cetera. 

And as the Israelis themselves and the United States helping build Israel into the physically capable power that it is today, there seems to be a mindset that's changed in some parts of the world, that somehow there isn’t still -- Israel is still not under siege.  Just because it’s strong, just because it’s vibrant, just because it is physically capable does not mean that it’s not under siege.  Be it that mother who every day opens the door and puts their child on a bus to go school, be it that father who has -- it amazes me how quickly people’s memories fade about how vulnerable individuals within that country—and the country—remains because of the nature of the arrayed forces against it.

Rockets from the southern frontier; Hezbollah in the north; Nusrah and ISIL on the north and east;  And across the region; a demographic wave that is gigantic; a sectarian conflict that is reminiscent of predictions of -- 700 years ago of a Sunni-Shia war; a profound political, society upheaval; more profound than any upheaval that's occurred in the region in a century. 

And looming over everything is Iran and its nuclear program -- the long and dangerous reach of its regional ambitions is felt not just by Israel, but by everyone else in the neighborhood.  And it’s a really tough, tough neighborhood.  I know that's the biggest understatement anyone has said to you today because all of you know it, feel it, taste it and have experienced it.

And it requires uncommon courage.  And the uncommon courage is that displayed by the people of Israel.  From the outset, they’ve lived under siege -- from the outset.  And more recently, they’ve lived in daily defiance of rockets, terrorist tunnels, unconscionable acts of terrorism like this month’s attack -- last month’s attack on a synagogue that took the lives of Jews at prayers, including three Americans, as well as a brave Israeli police officer. 

But for Israel, this tough neighborhood is home.  This tough neighborhood is where they live and will live forever.

I recently heard a story about Chaim Weizmann, who, as we all know was the first Prime Minister [sic].  I’m told he was lobbying the British House of Lords to establish a State of Israel when he was asked pointedly:  Why do you Jews insist on Palestine when there are so many underdeveloped countries you could settle in conveniently? 

And Weizmann’s reply was, that’s like my asking why you drove 20 miles to visit your mother last Sunday when there were so many nice old ladies on your own street.  (Laughter.)  Pretty apt.  Pretty apt.

My father said it a different way.  Joe knew my dad.  Joe was the first guy that told me that -- my dad would be referred to as a righteous Christian because at my dad’s dinner table -- it was a place where we sat to have conversation, and incidentally eat.  And my dad couldn’t understand -- when I was a kid in grade school and then in high school, he couldn’t understand when I was in grade school why there was even a debate about whether or not the State of Israel should be established.  And it totally perplexed him that even in the Jewish community in the United States there was some debate.  For he believed and -- which all of you do, I hope -- that the only ultimate guarantor of the security of the Jewish people worldwide in the face of such tragedy and history, the only way to ensure that phrase that became so prevalent after World War II, “never again,” was that for it to make a difference, there was only one place in the world that could be secure -- guaranteed -- and that is a State of Israel for the Jewish people.

I remember saying to my dad, but Dad, here in America… He said, pray God, Joey, that will always be the case.  And then he went through and told me the history of what happened and when it was so certain the Jews in Germany and in Spain and other places were part of the fabric of the society, et cetera.

Well, there’s never been any doubt in my mind.  There’s never been any doubt--though I want you to know, because I know some of you importune me not infrequently -- there’s no doubt in President Obama’s mind either, that we have an obligation to match the steel and the spine of the people of Israel with an ironclad, nonnegotiable commitment to Israel’s physical security.

And that's why we’ve invested over $1 billion -- and I know I’m going to repeat myself here, of some things you've already heard and said and you know, but it’s worthy for the press to hear it -- $1 billion in the production and development of Iron Dome batteries and interceptors -— including almost a quarter of a billion dollars in emergency funding this summer.  

As those rockets rained down and terrorists tunnels in from Gaza appeared, President Obama steadfastly stood before the world and defended Israel’s right to defend itself -— by itself —- like any other nation. 

Earlier this year, he backed up that commitment once again by securing over $3 billion in foreign military financing.  This is the largest amount of U.S. security assistance for Israel in all of history; over $17 billion since we took office, $8.5 million a day.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has, as Minister Livni knows, has been my friend for over 30 years.  We drive each other crazy.  But he has truly been a personal friend for well over 30 years.  He acknowledged this.  I was with him when he acknowledged it in front of the President, and he said it subsequently that this administration’s support to Israel’s security is “unprecedented.”

The President and I have now met with the Prime Minister more than any world leader.  Just last month, we held the U.S.-Israeli Consultative Group at the White House -— a regular gathering of defense, diplomatic, and intelligence leaders of both countries.  It features some of the most candid, strategic conversations we have with any nation -- especially with regard to Iran.

Again, I’m importuned because I speak all over the country and I’m going to say something outrageous, I have long, long ties with the American Jewish community.  And I get asked questions that perplex me.  About, does the President really mean it?  I get asked questions, do you mean what you say about Iran?  Look, I get asked questions, does Israel know what you're doing?  Ask any of our Israeli friends here.  They have been in every jot and tittle of everything we’ve thought about as it relates to engaging Iran from the very beginning.

Look, we’re close friends -- the American people, the Israeli people, our governments.  There’s absolutely no daylight -- none -- between us and the Israelis on the question of Israel’s security.  But as friends, we have an obligation to speak honestly with one another; to talk about -– not avoid -— the tactical disagreements we have, and we have tactical disagreements; to lay out for one another each of our perspectives.

I know none of you have ever -- I assume none of you have ever doubted I’ve meant whatever I have said to you.  The problem is I sometime say all that I think to you. 

We have been in constant, unrelenting contact with our friends in Israel and continue to do so; just as Israel has been absolutely candid with us when we have -- when they have tactical differences.  That's what friends do because we have no difference in our strategic perspectives.

And by the way folks, I say to my Israeli friends and to all of you who know Israel as well as I do -- and you all do -- that you can hear the same discussions in the Israeli parliament, the same differences.  You can hear the same discussions in synagogues in Israel.  You can hear the same discussions in cafes in Israel, the same differences that our governments discuss -- mostly privately. 

But I urge -- and you are the most influential group that could be assembled in one room in this country on the U.S.-Israeli relationship -- let’s not make more of what are normal disagreements that occur between friends than warrants.

Israel disagrees with us on a number of our tactics.  They have a different perspectives on how to proceed.  But, folks, that’s the downside of democracy.  It also has an upside.  We never have to wonder where the other guy is standing.

Occasionally, politics on both sides of this divide -- these tactical divides-- is used to try to gain advantage.  But you're all sophisticated enough to know that.  So I urge you, let’s talk about what the facts are, what the perspective is of each of us.

With regard to Iran, from the very beginning we’ve consulted with the Israeli government, militarily, intelligence -- I’ve spent hours, myself personally, and I’m not doing the negotiation.  Jake Sullivan, my guy, was the guy who was doing a lot of this, and Bill Burns.  But every aspect of this policy has been discussed in detail. 

You all are very familiar with and occasionally use the word “chutzpah.”  I hope I made you aware of an Irish phrase “malarkey” -- malarkey.  There’s been a lot of malarkey around our position on Iran.  So let me state it absolutely clearly: 

We will not let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon.  Period.  Period.  End of discussion.  It will not happen on our watch.

A diplomatic solution that puts significant and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program represents the best and most sustainable chance to ensure that America, Israel, the entire Middle East will never be menaced by a nuclear-armed Iran.

And we remain committed to seek an agreement that meaningfully and verifiably blocks Iran from the pathways that it has available to it to create fissile material for a bomb; a nuclear breakout in its uranium enrichment facilities; the plutonium path, using Iran’s Arak reactor; or a covert nuclear program. 

That’s why, through hard-nosed diplomacy, we’ve rallied the world to put in place the toughest multilateral sanctions regime in history against the Iranian government.  That’s what brought Iran to the negotiation table in the first place.  Up to that time, Iran had been making steady progress in every administration -- in every administration they’d been making steady progress.  I don't know how many conversations I had with the Prime Minister and others about how we could never put together a regime of sanctions that could hold.  My guy turned out to be right.  We could and he did.

As a consequence of our negotiations, Iran has frozen significant elements of its program in exchange for very moderate sanctions relief through this so-called Joint Plan of Action, reached over one year ago and extended for an additional seven months just two weeks ago. 

The agreement has brought significant benefits. Hasn’t solved the whole problem, but the agreement -- before the agreement, Iran was accumulating a growing stockpile of low-enriched uranium.  Now that stockpile is no longer growing.

Remember the Prime Minister standing up, famously drawing -- with that famous drawing at the United Nations with the line, standing there as he spoke of Iran’s path to the bomb.  Before the Joint Plan of Action, Iran was inching up that -- toward that red line, accumulating 20 percent-enriched uranium, far closer to bomb grade. 

Now, Iran has moved in the opposite direction, neutralizing its entire stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium.  And under the new extension, it has committed additional steps to turn this material into reactor fuel, taking it off the table and away from a breakout scenario.

Before, Iran was installing new and more sophisticated centrifuges.  They have a lot of them on the sideline.  But now, under the Joint Plan of Action, they have not installed or operated any additional centrifuges, including the next-generation models.

And the terms of the new extension place tighter curbs on its ability to pursue an advanced centrifuge program.  Before, Iran was moving toward a heavy-water plutonium reactor at Arak. 

Now, that effort, too, is frozen.   Inspectors -- inspections before were limited.  Now Iran has allowed daily access at Natanz and Fordow, and inspections at new sites such as centrifuge production facilities -- access that has been expanded even further in the new extension. 

This doesn't solve the problem, but this matters.  The more frequent and intrusive monitoring we have, the sooner we’ll be able to know if Iran tries to break out or sneak out, and the longer we have to do what is necessary to prevent it occurring.

The Joint Plan of Action is not a perfect or permanent solution.  But it provides us time to negotiate, to see if it’s possible to reach a comprehensive agreement that can peacefully ensure that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

And all of this was accomplished with very modest sanctions relief.  And if Iran takes the concrete, verifiable steps necessary to achieve a comprehensive deal, it will it begin to receive true relief from nuclear-related sanctions and be able to offer a better future to its people.

In the meantime, make no mistake about it:  the Iranian economy remains under tremendous pressure.  The overwhelming majority of the sanctions remain in place.  It is true that Iran will be able to repatriate $4.9 billion in revenues as a consequence of the new extension, but that’s very modest relief overall, a small fraction of the $100 billion in Iranian funds that remain blocked around the world; the $60 billion to $70 billion Iran needs each year to fund its imports; the $35 billion it needs to close its budget deficit.

Sanctions have already done significant damage to Iran’s economy and continue to do so.  The Iranian riyal is about -- has depreciated about 50 percent since June of 2012.  Since 2011, sanctions have caused Iran to lose over $200 billion in oil revenue, including $35 billion just since the signing of the Joint Plan of Action.  Iran’s annual inflation rate is about 21 percent.  Iran’s economy is 20 to 25 percent smaller today than it would have been had it remained out -- had it remained on its pre-2011 trajectory.  The bottom falling out of oil prices has further complicated Iran’s economic outlook.

And crucially, for the first time, we have a diplomatic context in which the Iranians are continuing to make progress -- they can no longer continue to make progress on their nuclear program while they talk. 

None of these constraints would be in place without the Joint Plan of Action.  And as we pursue a comprehensive agreement, one thing I can guarantee you is that the President -- what the President told you a year ago, right at this forum, Haim, he said:  We will not accept a bad deal. 

Our decision to extend the Joint Plan of Action proved that we will continue to press the Iranians to get a good deal that satisfies our bottom lines.  The result of our determination has been that the Iranians have begun to show flexibility on some important issues. 

This progress was not enough to lead to an agreement.  But it was enough to justify an extension to see whether -- whether or not, now that Iran understands the firmness of our core requirements, whether or not we can reach an agreement that keeps America, our allies, Israel, and the world safe.

     And so we have agreed to extend these talks for seven additional months, with the goal of completing a broad agreement on the core elements in four months and technical annexes over the next three months after that.  

We believe that we have enough leverage to reach a comprehensive agreement.  There are no guarantees of success, though, to state the obvious.  But there are steps we can take -— and steps we can hold off on -– that increase the odds or diminish the odds that we could succeed.

I know there are some in this room and some on the Hill that this is the moment for additional sanctions.  Remember back several years ago when the understandable pessimism was, could we hold the P5-plus-1 together?  Could we hold Russia?  Could we hold China?  One of the elements, as Martin Indyk can tell you and others, that are stake here is the need to hold the P5-plus-1 together tightly.  And actions we take can impact on that probability. 

There may well come the time when increased pressure is needed and welcome.  I’ve met with over 168 members of the House and Senate.  I’ve made it clear there may very well be a time when we are not only welcoming, we're asking for additional sanctions.

Should Iran violate the terms of our agreement, Congress and the administration could immediately impose new sanctions.  And the President has made it clear that he’d be part of that.  But now is not the right time to do that.  We could end up with the worst of all worlds:  breaking up the coalition, no peaceful resolution of Iran’s nuclear programs; and less leverage to achieve one.

And with all that is happening in the region, this is not the time to risk a breakdown when we still have a chance for a breakthrough.  This is the moment to give our negotiators a little bit more time and space to see if they can reach an agreement that benefits everyone. 

Our strategy has been underestimated from the beginning.  I told, you remember, many people said we couldn’t even put together the coalition to keep the most successful sanctions in modern history.  Some people including some of you in this room, good people, Democrats and Republicans, said the Joint Plan of Action was a mistake.  Look where we find ourselves.  It has frozen its program, it’s given us a shot for a peaceful solution. 

I tell you I think it’s less than an even shot, but it’s a shot.  Some said Iran would never abide by the terms of the Joint Plan of Action.  But according to each and every monthly report by the IAEA, Iran has held up its end of the bargain and honored the agreement.

Some said that the modest sanctions relief would provide the ability to see a collapse in the sanctions regime, predicted that companies would flood back into Iran.  And we know -- we all know, we can name the companies in different countries who could hardly wait to flow back in to Iran.  But they haven’t.  They haven’t. 

So we have made progress, real progress in that the program is basically frozen. And we’ve sharpened some fundamental choices for the Iranians:  either seize an historic opportunity to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful and fully rejoin the world economy and the community of nations or face unrelenting pressure.

This is not the time, nor do I have the -- nor do we have the time now, but all of you in this room know, there’s a lot of change taking place inside Iran, as well -- some good, some bad.  But the idea there’s one single monolith in Iran that is able to be sustained, I think that is a foolish view of modern history.  It could be worse.  But it also could be better.

A good deal exists that would benefit America, Iran, Israel and the world –- if Iran is willing to take the deal.  I’m making no predictions that they will.  But I guarantee you unless they do, there will be no agreement.

And as we move forward, just as we have done so far, we will continue to consult on every jot and tittle, every detail with our Israeli friends every step of the way. 

But you all know as well as I do, Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people depends on far more than prevailing and keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed nation.  It depends on reaching a two-state solution -- two states for two people.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s -- it is a difficult job to stay engaged -- for Israelis and for us -- in trying to figure out how to arrive at such a solution.  But we continue to believe that -- at least I do, and the President does -- that the vast majority of Israelis and Palestinians, they think that it is the right way to go.  But it’s frightening.  It’s frightening and the chances that have to be taken are very, very difficult for leaders to step up and take.  And I understand that.

The fact is that I think we have no choice but to continue to try.  I -- ultimately, every one of these decisions will be left and should be left to the government of Israel.  But the end result of a two-state solution with each enjoying self-determination, security and mutual recognition is I think -- not only is the right thing vis-à-vis the Palestinians and Israelis, but has the potential to unlock a whole new potential. 

Given the demographic realities that remain, the best and only option to ensure the survival of a democratic state, a Jewish homeland in Israel is such a negotiation.

Like you, I understand the obstacles.  And we have no illusions about Hamas.  It says a great deal that this terrorist group chooses to pour its resources into the ground for sophisticated tunnels to infiltrate Israel, instead of building hospitals and schools and meeting the needs of the people of Gaza.  

But I also remain convinced, as I said, that the vast majority of Israelis and the vast majority of Palestinians believe -- as President Obama said in Jerusalem last year -—

that peace is possible, peace is necessary, and peace is just. 

And just think of the opportunities it could provide.  As you look across the region, for the first time in modern history, a surprising thing is happening.  Israel and several of its Arab neighbors -- Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others –- find themselves on the same side of two very important struggles:  the fight against violent extremism, including ISIL, or as our Arab friends say, Daesh; and a regional struggle against Iran and its proxies.  

For perhaps the first time in history, Israel – Israel’s-- interests are in general convergence with those basic interests as well as the Arabs.  That creates a chance -— nothing more, just a chance -- for closer relations between Israel and the Arab world.

In some ways, this is already unfolding in quiet dialogue between security officials from countries whose diplomats

wouldn’t greet each other at airports in the recent past, and still won’t.  But the only way to fully realize this opportunity -- one that would give Israel more opportunities in the region than it now has -- is for Israel and the Palestinians to make progress toward peace. 

And it’s the quickest way to destroy -- and the quickest way to destroy any prospects of a true strategic realignment in the region, which would take time, but can begin, is to deny a political horizon toward a two-state solution -— or worse, to allow a cycle of provocation and violence to be unleashed and unleash instability on the ground. 

And it’s because of America’s commitment to Israel’s security –- not in spite of it -— we are frank with our allies when we have concerns.   We appreciated the critical statesmanship of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Abbas in working out to reaffirm the historic status quo and to make sure that tensions over the

Temple Mount and Haram-al-Sharif don’t boil over into a conflict and conflagration in Jerusalem that engulfs the entire country.

But all sides have more work to do to lessen tensions and prevent further provocations, and I think they understand that in my conversations, at least. 

We’re frank about this with the Palestinians.  And we have to be tough and honest -- have tough and honest conversations with them about what they need to do, and they need to do so much more to combat the instances of incitement, including on social media. 

And we’re frank with our Israeli friends about the actions that we consider counterproductive:  expanding settlement activity and construction, including in sensitive areas in East Jerusalem and the West Bank; the demolition of the homes of relatives of attackers.  That can't be a justification for the abhorrent killing of innocent civilians.  [Sic] There is no justification.  But punishment of families -— collective punishment -— risks stoking tensions even further.

We’ve also spoken about our shared concern about preventing vigilante attacks against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, and investigating those that occur, and swiftly bringing to justice the perpetrators of those crimes.  And that's what the government is doing now and has been, quite frankly.

It is simply too easy for provocations from either side to ignite violence that no one can control, which ultimately hurts everyone.  In all of these instances, all around the world, the lowest common denominator has the ability to bring everything down.  And it’s hard as hell to overcome that lowest common denominator.

We know from long experience that none of these issues are easy or simple.  But we believe there is a better path.  And if Israel and the Palestinians can find their way to peace, the possibilities are limitless.

There is no one threat that worries me more though than the rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world.  With the encouragement of some of you in this audience, including Joe, I remember holding hearings in the mid ‘80s about anti-Semitism in Europe and being criticized:  Why was I holding those hearings?  But you were right, Joe.

When we were expanding NATO, I remember you calling me after I was in Poland, and I was asked before 3,000 people at the University of Warsaw is there anything that could stop Poland’s admission.  I said, yes, anti-Semitism -- because of what was going on at the prison -- at the death camp.

But anti-Semitism goes hand in hand -- it’s bad under any circumstance, but now it goes hand in hand in what I would call an overall effort to delegitimize Israel -- to delegitimize Israel in almost every quarter.

You see it all over the world.  This summer, during the conflict in Gaza, we saw too many people in too many places

cross the line from legitimate criticism into demonization and outright anti-Semitism.  You saw it in demonstrations that devolved into mobs that torched synagogues.  You see it in menacing messages on social media.  You see it in attacks on religious Jews on streets of major European cities.  

It is a fundamental threat not simply to Jews, primarily -- but not simply to Jews, but to legitimization of the State of Israel and to democracy itself.  There can be no tolerance for anti-Semitism.  And I’m proud that America works to expose and combat such bigotry wherever it finds it around the world. 

And, as the President said in Jerusalem:  Make no mistake -– those who adhere to the ideology rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.  Anywhere. 

The preservation of a secure, democratic Israel is the only certain guarantor of the freedom and security for Jews worldwide.  Joe and others have heard me tell this story, but it was -- I remember how it struck me.

As a young senator, I’ve had the great privilege of meeting and getting to know every Prime Minister in Israel since Golda Meir.  I was permitted to -- well, I won’t go into it.  But I was in Israel just before the Yom Kippur War, days before.  And I was meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir, which was one of the -- because of my job, I’ve gotten to meet almost every world leader in the last 40 years.  Not figuratively, literally.  And she was impressive.  I just was so excited to meet her.  And I sat in front of her desk.  And she had that bank of maps behind her, she kept pulling up and down.  She had -- you know those charts. 

And I was sitting next to a guy who was her aide, on my right, in a seat in front of her, a guy named Rabin.  And she kept me there for the better part -- I could have stayed another two hours, about an hour and a half.  And she went into vivid detail with me about the Six Day War, and reading me letters from Israeli soldiers who had died, to their families, et cetera, and then -- and chain-smoking and flipping to another map and show me where -- as I said, this went on for well over an hour.  And I was engrossed, but I was getting more morose as every minute went on.  And I know you remember this story, Joe, but it’s absolutely true.  She -- and finally, she just looked at me as if we had been talking about a recent football match or something.  And she said, would you like a photo opportunity?  And I looked at her, and I said, well, yes, Madam Prime Minister.

And those double-doors that open out into that little square outside the office there, walked outside, and there were a battery of reporters and mostly cameramen.  They weren’t asking questions.  They were just taking pictures.  And I was standing to her right.  And we were both looking straight ahead.  While looking straight ahead without turning her head to talk to me, she said, Senator, you look so worried.  And I turned to her -- I was supposed to keep looking straight -- I turned to her, and I said, well, I am, Madam Prime Minister, what you just laid out.  She said, oh, without looking at me, just looking straight ahead.  She said, don't worry.  We Jews have a secret weapon in our struggle with the Arabs. 

And I thought she was about to tell me something profound.  It turned out it was profound, but I thought she was going to tell me about some weapon or some plan or whatever.  And I turned and looked at her.  She still didn't turn and look at me.  Looking straight ahead, she said, our secret weapon is we have no place else to do.

As long as we keep that mind as Americans, no matter how frustrated we may get -- and it’s personal dealings occasionally -- and as I said to -- I just spoke to 4,000 members of North American federation -- Jewish Federation [of North America], and the [sic] Israeli Prime Minister in the front row, and I said, send a message to Bibi, I love him.  I love him.  And I had signed a picture years ago to him.  I said, Bibi, I don't agree with a damn thing you have to say, but I love you.  (Laughter.) 

I agree with a lot he has to say.  But if friends can't acknowledge -- if friends can't acknowledge the very things that are acknowledged in each of our countries vis-à-vis one another, then it’s not much of a friendship. 

So my message to you all is, please, let’s keep whatever disagreements we have in perspective because they don't go to the heart, the soul, they don't go to the essence of who we are as Americans and who Israelis are.  There is no daylight.  None, none, none, between Israel’s security and the United States.

God bless you all and may God protect Israel and our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


1:52 P.M. EST