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Town Hall
En Espanol

Remarks By Vice President Al Gore
AIPAC Annual Policy Conference

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Thank you, Norm Brownstein, for those warm words -- and let me wish you a very happy birthday.

It is great to be here with so many old friends � Pris Siskin, from my home state of Tennessee; Mel Levine, with whom I served in Congress; Lonny Kaplan, who goes back to our college days; Tim Wuliger, who has the daunting task of filling Lonny�s shoes. A task made easier because of the leadership of AIPAC�s executive director, Howard Kohr.

And to the 700 college students here today, I thank you for your commitment to this worthy cause. I am so happy to welcome all of you to the conference.

It is an honor to speak with you again this year. I remember the first time I spoke to AIPAC. I was a young Congressman then, and I was asked to speak to a small workshop of about two dozen people on how to lobby Congress.

I then had the AIPAC board over to my house in Arlington. Tipper and I had a young family then. Now, just last Friday, we celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary�

Our four children are grown up, and our oldest daughter gave birth to our first grandchild � on July 4th. Pris tells me that makes me a zayde, and Tipper a bubbe�

Over the years, the relationship between all of us has deepened and grown. I have worked with many of you. I have learned much from you. And many, many of us have become personal friends.

Some of you have accompanied me on my many trips to Israel � when I took my family there on vacation, and when I had the honor of representing our nation at Israel�s 50th anniversary.

Now, almost two decades later, the crowd is a little bigger, and the challenges before Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship have changed. But some things have not: our enduring support for a strong partnership between the United States and Israel; and our commitment to one of the cornerstones of America�s national security � a strong, secure, peaceful, and prosperous State of Israel.

When I think about the special relationship between Israel and the United States, I�m reminded of a story about some of the earliest discussions between our two governments.

Although he proudly proclaimed that he never rested, David Ben-Gurion would take time out from the difficult work of building the new State of Israel to practice yoga. No joke � this comes from the excellent biography of Ben-Gurion by Dan Kurzman.

One day, the American Ambassador to Israel, Ogden Reid, came in to speak to Ben-Gurion, and found the great leader standing on his head. Well-schooled in the art of diplomacy, Ambassador Reid appraised the situation, decided to abandon State Department protocol, and promptly stood on his head, too. Then, he and Ben-Gurion � with their feet in the air � began their discussions.

Even when the world is upside down, the United States and Israel see eye-to-eye.

Ben-Gurion may have had unorthodox ways of conducting diplomacy, but he was a modern-day prophet. He was part of a generation that believed it was their responsibility to make the centuries-long dream of a Jewish homeland a reality. He was one of the dreamers who believed that they could make the desert bloom. He was one of the warriors who never lost hope for peace. As Ben-Gurion wrote to a friend near the end of his life, �there is hope�that peace is approaching, not quickly, but slowly, slowly...and it appears to me that by the end of this century, the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled.�

Today, we meet for the first time in a new century � still striving to fulfill that prophetic vision of a time when �they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: [when] nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.� [Isaiah 2:4]

I want to talk with you today about what we can do to achieve peace and security for Israel, for our own country, and ultimately, throughout the world.

In a speech three weeks ago in Boston, I laid out a vision for America�s strength and role abroad. I believe we need to recognize that the classic security agenda � the question of war and peace between sovereign nations � is still with us during this new Global Age, in which the destinies of billions of people around the globe are increasingly intertwined.

We need to recognize that this Global Age presents us with a new set of threats -- such as rogue nations or terrorist groups acquiring biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons � or merely the ability to disrupt our computer networks. Or the continued degradation of our environment which threatens the long-term security of all humanity. At the same time, this new age also presents us with new opportunities � for peace, and for economic growth.

We need to engage the New Security Agenda with the same vigor and commitment with which we continue to confront the old. That is, we need to pursue what I call �forward engagement,� an approach in which we address problems close to their source and before they become crises, and in which we have the forces and resources to deal with those threats quickly.

One of the great tests of this approach is in the Middle East � where we still wrestle with the classic questions of war and peace. We see in the Middle East the emergence of new threats that must be addressed swiftly and definitively. But we also see the possibility of peace opening extraordinary new horizons.

When we took office seven years ago, President Clinton and I decided that the United States needed to chart a new course with regard to the Middle East peace process. Unlike our immediate predecessors, we chose to get intimately involved. But we also established a firm, new rule � that we must not, and would not, in any way try to pressure Israel, to agree to measures that they themselves did not see were in their own best interests.

This commitment to Israel was not new for me. I stood against the efforts of the two previous administrations to pressure Israel to take stands against its own view of what was in Israel�s best interests. In 1988, I took a strong stand against a previous administration�s efforts to force Israel into concessions that would have threatened its security. And in 1991, I remember vividly standing up against a group of administration foreign policy advisors who promoted the insulting concept of �linkage,� which tried to use loan guarantees as a stick to bully Israel. I stood with AIPAC, and together, we defeated them.

And incidentally, I have never and will never interfere in an Israeli election. But I certainly hope that all of you will be active in this upcoming American election because a lot is at stake.

Facilitating peace, not forcing it; standing by our friends, not against them � these have been the hallmarks of my approach for my entire career, and it will be my approach if I�m entrusted with the Presidency.

I will never, ever let people forget that the relationship between the United States and Israel rests on granite � on the rock of our common values, our common heritage, and our common dedication to freedom.

If, from time to time, we disagree, I will always work to make sure that we emerge even stronger � with a better understanding of each other�s interests -- so that we are always working to reinforce one another.

I will never forget that Israel�s security rests on its superiority in arms. That is why, two years ago, the United States and Israel established a new strategic partnership, ushering in an unprecedented level of military cooperation. I am absolutely committed to make sure that Israel�s qualitative edge remains, and remains strong.

Our renewed partnership has brought historic progress over the past seven years. Last year, when we met, I told you I would work to end Israel�s half-century of ostracism from the United Nations groupings of countries from which membership in the UN Security Council is drawn.

When I was last at the UN in January, I raised this issue with Secretary General Annan in a private meeting. I have continued to work on it, and I can report to you that we are closer than ever to seeing Israel finally, and proudly, take its rightful, equal place in the international order. The shameful wall that has blocked Israel�s full integration into the community of nations must come down

In these seven years, Jordan has joined Egypt as an Arab state which has signed a peace agreement with Israel. The negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis have reached a point where final status talks and a full resolution are still possible, although the difficult struggle to get there is clearly growing more intense.

As we have seen again this past week, there are those who prefer violence to negotiation. I condemn this violence. Just as I supported Prime Minister Netanyahu�s efforts, I now applaud Prime Minister Barak�s resolve, and his clear message that peace will be achieved at the bargaining table, not in streets torn by riots and violence. We should all be proud of his courage. He has shown as much bravery in negotiations as he has demonstrated in a lifetime of heroic service on the battlefield.

The negotiations can not be a one-way street. The Palestinians, too, must recognize that they will not get all that they want. It is the responsibility of Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian leadership � a responsibility they acknowledge -- to prevent those who would resort to violence from disrupting the peace process at this extraordinarily difficult and delicate time.

It is a particular disappointment that Syria, at least for now, has turned down offers made in good faith in Geneva. As Israel proceeds to withdraw from Lebanon in compliance with Resolution 425, President Assad can decide to let this happen without incident as a down payment for peace in the future. Or, by continuing to allow Hezbollah to harass Israel as her troops withdraw and even after they withdraw, he can signal that he is not interested in progress.

Syria may not choose to pursue peace for now. But make no mistake: Syria has no right to pursue a course of conflict that denies peace to others. The people of the Galilee should be able to live their lives without the disruption of an air-raid siren. If peace does not come to this area, President Assad will bear a heavy responsibility before the entire world.

It is a sign of how serious matters have become that Prime Minister Barak has decided to remain at home, canceling his trip to the United States. Ehud Barak is far away from here tonight, but the message we all send to him should be loud and clear: we stand by you in these critical days.

The classic challenges of war and peace extend beyond Israel�s immediate neighborhood, to Iraq and Iran.

In 1991, I broke with many in my own party, and voted to use force to stop Saddam Hussein�s aggression in the Middle East. Despite our swift victory and all our efforts since, there is no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein still seeks to amass weapons of mass destruction.

You know as well as I do: as long as Saddam Hussein stays in power, there can be no comprehensive peace for the people of Israel, or the people of the Middle East.

We have made it clear that it is our policy to see Saddam Hussein gone. We have sought coalitions of opponents to challenge his power from within or without. I have met with the Iraqi resistance, and I have invited them to meet with me again next month � when I will encourage them to further unite in their efforts against Saddam.

We have maintained sanctions in the face of rising criticism, while improving the oil-to-food program to help the Iraqi people directly. We have used force when necessary. And we will not let up in our efforts to free Iraq from Saddam�s rule. Should he think of challenging us, I would strongly advise against it. As a Senator, I voted for the use of force. As Vice President, I supported the use of force. And if entrusted with the Presidency, my resolve will never waver.

In Iran, there is an increasing tension between the people, who clearly want to lead normal lives, and the most extreme clerics, who are bent on preserving their radical regime, by whatever means necessary.

We see this tension playing itself out in the trial of thirteen Iranian Jews in Shiraz. Like the closure of newspapers and the assassination of dissident leaders, this trial is part of the effort to block reform in Iran. Those conducting the trial claim that due process is being served, but the proceedings are closed to international observers and to the press. They say they have received confessions from some of the accused � but it is clear that these confessions are meaningless and that the trials are a mockery of justice. We utterly and absolutely condemn these show trials as an immoral and illegal abuse of basic human rights.

And let me be clear: the United States will judge Iran by its actions, not by its assurances.

Iran is not only a conventional threat to our national interests, the security of Israel, and the stability of the region. It also stands at the crossroads, where the classic and new security agendas meet � for it is a major sponsor of terrorism and seeker of weapons of mass destruction, a deadly and unacceptable combination.

We have been working to cut off all possible suppliers of missile and nuclear technology. We have gained full cooperation from our European allies. But Russia represents a special concern -- because there is a gap between the stated policy of its government to stop proliferation, and what occurs in practice. We have used our leverage with Russia.

We have made progress at some points, but not at others. We now call on President Putin to show leadership in this area � not just because it is in our interests, but also because it is in Russia�s interests.

We must also prepare counter-measures. That is why we have been working with Israel to develop and deploy the Arrow anti-missile defense system, a vital part of its future defense. It is also one of the reasons we are developing technology for a possible national missile defense for the United States.

The challenges of the classic security agenda � facilitating peace between Israel and its neighbors, and containing and transforming Iran and Iraq � are ones that I believe we can meet, with unwavering vigilance and commitment.

But we also recognize that when the time comes for that last peace treaty to be signed � if it comes -- there will then be agreements between governments, but not necessarily peace between peoples. True peace � if it is to take hold � will come about only if we apply the same courage and determination to making the Middle East a more stable, secure, and prosperous region.

I ask us, for a moment, to lift our eyes and look beyond the ebb and flow of daily events. Despite all the grave problems of the moment, all the real challenges to the prospect for peace, let us envision the Middle East as it can be ten or twenty years from now � a Middle East at peace with itself, taking full advantage of all its potential and the talents of all its people. And let us focus on the steps we can take to make that vision a reality.

We have to integrate Israel fully and completely into the region and into the new global economy. We must revitalize the economic summit process started in Casablanca. We need to foster trade and investment in the region, by expanding private sector involvement and by working with governments to remove the political and bureaucratic barriers to growth.

And we need to explore new ways to marshal the limited resources of the region to benefit Israel and the entire Middle East. Specifically, we need to foster cooperation on the issues of water and the environment. From the days of the Bible to today, water has been a source of conflict in the Middle East. We must work to make it a fountain of peace. Encouraging all countries in the region � including Turkey � to cooperate on this issue is essential to the stability of the Middle East and critical to the security of Israel.

We need to stand with our ally, Jordan. King Abdullah and the Jordanian people, now more than ever, deserve our help -- with defense assistance and with economic development.

We have to work with the Palestinians to establish transparent, democratic institutions and a society built on the rule of law. When they pursue that path, we should be prepared to help them.

We need to help lift up the region�s poor, combat illiteracy, and fight disease. We need to promote cultural exchanges, and people-to-people contact. And we need to back all of this up with a systematic effort to encourage tolerance and mutual respect in the region�s media and schools.

But to keep Israel secure and the region at peace, we must look even farther ahead. In this Global Age -- where it is possible for any state or group to inflict horrific destruction with relative ease and over thousands of miles � we have to view security not just regionally, but in a much wider context.

One of the broader challenges we face is to actively, and forwardly, engage the Islamic world -- a world stretching far beyond the confines of Israel�s immediate neighbors -- stretching south into sub-Saharan Africa, and east through the Caucasus, and Southeast Asia, through Xinjiang in China, then into Malaysia and Indonesia.

Some say that, when it comes to this part of the world, there is destined to be conflict � between and even within faiths, between the religious and the secular, between modernity and tradition. Indeed, a minority of the Islamic world has come to view the West � especially the United States and Israel � through that lens, and has turned to terrorism against us. We must act decisively against that terrorism � and we must persist in making it clear that the only way forward for all nations is for all nations, no matter their faith, to learn to live together.

Forging the right kind of relationship with the Islamic world is a major challenge for the United States and Israel in the coming years.

We know it will not be easy. But we will do it, and in the process, we will advance and strengthen peace in the Middle East and the security of Israel.

Seeing the challenges of the future and helping our country prepare for them has always been the mission of AIPAC. You are continuing that mission today as you go up to Capitol Hill, to make sure that Israel has all the power and support it needs to negotiate a �peace of the brave.�

But then, your work -- our work -- will not be done. In truth, it will just be beginning. A true peace � with security -- will be the work of generations. As the ancient rabbis taught in Pirke Avot, �it is not your responsibility to finish the work, but you are not free to desist from it either.� [2:21]

This is our responsibility: to safeguard Israel and to do the work of building peace with security. It is a moral imperative that we share. It is not just in my policy. It is in my heart, my conscience, and my soul. And with your help, I hope to be able to do all that I can in this cause for many years to come.

I thank you for your friendship � and for the work that you set out to do again on Capitol Hill. Thank you, and



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