Second Speech to a Joint Session of Congress
delivered 24 May 2011, Washington, D.C.
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Vice President Biden, Speaker Boehner, Distinguished Senators, Members of the House, honored guests:
I'm deeply moved by this warm
welcome. And I'm deeply honored that you've
given me the opportunity to
address Congress a second time.
We stand together to defend
democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together
to fight terrorism. Congratulations America. Congratulations,
You got bin Laden. Good
Some of you have been telling me that your belief
has been reaffirmed in recent months -- that
support for Israel’s security is a wise investment in our common
future. For an epic battle is now underway in the Middle East,
between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the
earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar. The
tremors have shattered states; they've toppled governments. And we
can all see that the ground is still shifting. Now this historic
moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and
opportunity. There are millions of young people out there who are determined to change
their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They
risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty.
[protester interrupts Netanyahu's Address]
You know, I take it as a badge of honor and so should you that in our free societies you can have protests. You can't have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy!
So as we share the
hopes of these young people throughout the Middle East and Iran -- that they'll
be able to do what that young woman just did. (I think she's young. I couldn't
see quite that far) -- we
also must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out as
they were in
Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened
then. The brief democratic spring in Tehran was cut short by a
ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. And it's this same tyranny
Cedar Revolution, and inflicted on that
long-suffering country, the medieval rule of Hezbollah.
Fifteen years ago,
I stood at this very podium
-- by the way, it hasn't changed -- I stood here and I said that
democracy must start to take root in the Arab World. Well, it's
begun to take root, and this beginning holds the promise of a
brilliant future of peace and prosperity -- because I believe that a
Middle East that is genuinely democratic will be a Middle East
truly at peace.
But while we hope for the best and while we work for the best, we must also recognize
that powerful forces oppose this future. They oppose modernity.
They oppose democracy. They oppose peace.
Now, I have no doubt -- I'm absolutely convinced -- that it will ultimately be defeated. I believe it will eventually succumb to the forces of freedom and progress. It depends on cloistering young minds for a given amount of years. And the process of opening up information will ultimately defeat this movement.
But like other
fanaticisms that were doomed to fail, militant Islam could exact
an horrific price from all of us before its inevitable demise.
A nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the
Middle East. It would give terrorists a nuclear umbrella. It
would make the nightmare of nuclear terrorism a clear and
present danger throughout the world. Now I want you to understand
what this means, because if we don't stop it, it's coming. They could put
a bomb anywhere. They could
put it in a missile. They're working on missiles that could
reach this city. They could put it on a -- on a ship inside a container to reach
every port. They could eventually put it in a suitcase or in a subway.
But there is something that
makes the outrage even greater. And you know what this is? It's
the lack of outrage. Because in much of
the international community, the calls for our destruction are
met with utter silence. It's even worse because there are
many who rush to condemn Israel for defending itself against
Iran’s terror proxies.
President Obama has said that the United States is determined
to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The president successfully led
the Security Council at the U.N. to adopt sanctions against Iran. You in
Congress passed even tougher sanctions.
Now as for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously. We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say "never again," we mean never again. Israel always reserves -- Israel always reserves the right to defend itself.
My friends, while Israel will be ever-vigilant in its defense, we’ll never give
up our quest for peace. I guess we’ll give it up when we achieve it. Because we
want peace. Because we need peace. Now, we’ve achieved historic peace agreements
with Egypt and Jordan, and these have held up for decades.
We’re not the British in India. We’re not the
Belgians in the Congo. This is the land of our forefathers, the land of Israel,
to which Abraham brought the idea of one god, where David set out to confront
Goliath, and where Isaiah saw his vision of eternal peace. No distortion of
history -- and boy am I reading a lot of distortions of history lately, old and
new -- no distortion of history could deny the 4,000-year-old bond between the
Jewish people and the Jewish land.
We’ve helped -- on our side, we’ve helped the
Palestinian economic growth by removing hundreds of barriers and roadblocks to
the free flow of goods and people, and the results have been nothing short of
remarkable. The Palestinian economy is booming; it’s growing by more than 10
percent a year. And Palestinian cities -- they look very different today than
what they looked just a few years -- a few years ago. They have shopping malls,
movie theaters, restaurants, banks.
They even have e-businesses, but you can’t see that when you visit them. That’s
what they have. It’s a great change. And all of this is happening without peace.
So imagine what could happen with peace.
You see, our conflict has never been about the establishment of a Palestinian state; it’s always been about the existence of the Jewish state. This is what this conflict is about. In 1947, the U.N. voted to partition the land into a Jewish state and an Arab state. The Jews said yes; the Palestinians said no.
In recent years, the Palestinians twice refused generous offers by Israeli prime ministers to establish a Palestinian state on virtually all the territory won by Israel in the Six Day War. They were simply unwilling to end the conflict. And I regret to say this: They continue to educate their children to hate. They continue to name public squares after terrorists. And worst of all, they continue to perpetuate the fantasy that Israel will one day be flooded by the descendants of Palestinian refugees. My friends, this must come to an end.
President Abbas must do what I have done. I stood before my people -- and I told you, it wasn’t easy for me -- I stood before my people and I said, “I will accept a Palestinian state.” It’s time for President Abbas to stand before his people and say, “I will accept a Jewish state.” Those six words will change history. They’ll make it clear to the Palestinians that this conflict must come to an end; that they’re not building a Palestinian state to continue the conflict with Israel, but to end it.
And those six words will convince the people of Israel that they have a true
partner for peace.
The status of the settlements will be decided only in negotiations, but we must
also be honest. So I’m saying today something that should be said publicly by
all those who are serious about peace. In any real peace agreement, in any peace
agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel’s
borders. Now the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We’ll
be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state. But
President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that
existed on June 4th, 1967. Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries
We recognize that a Palestinian state must be big enough to be viable, to be independent, to be prosperous. All of you -- and the president too -- have referred to Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, just as you’ve been talking about a future Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people. Well, Jews from around the world have a right to immigrate to the one and only Jewish state, and Palestinians from around the world should have a right to immigrate, if they so choose, to a Palestinian state. And here is what this means. It means that the Palestinian refugee problem will be resolved outside the borders of Israel. You know, everybody knows this. It’s time to say it. It’s important.
And as for Jerusalem, only a democratic Israel has protected the freedom of worship for all faiths in the city. Throughout the millennial history of the Jewish capital, the only time that Jews, Christians and Moslems could worship freely, could have unfettered access to their holy sites has been during Israel’s sovereignty over Jerusalem. Jerusalem must never again be divided. Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel. I know this is a difficult issue for Palestinians. But I believe that, with creativity and with good will, a solution can be found.
So this is the peace I plan to forge with a Palestinian partner committed to
peace. But you know very well that in the Middle East, the only peace that will
hold is the peace you can defend. So peace must be anchored in security.
I want you to think about that, too. Imagine there’s a siren going on now and we have less than 60 seconds to find shelter from an incoming rocket. Would you live that way? Do you think anybody can live that way? Well, we’re not going to live that way either.
The truth is that Israel needs unique security arrangements because of its unique size. It’s one of the smallest countries in the world. Mr. Vice President, I’ll grant you this: It’s bigger than Delaware.It’s even bigger than Rhode Island. But that’s about it. Israel under 1967 lines would be half the width of the Washington Beltway.
Now, here’s a bit of nostalgia. I came to Washington 30 years ago as a young diplomat. It took me a while, but I finally figured it out: there is an America beyond the Beltway. But Israel under 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth. So it’s therefore vital -- absolutely vital -- that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized, and it’s vital -- absolutely vital -- that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.
Solid security arrangements on the ground are
necessary not only to protect the peace; they’re necessary to protect Israel in
case the peace unravels, because in our unstable region, no one can guarantee
that our peace partners today will be there tomorrow. And my friends, when I say
"tomorrow," I don’t mean some distant time in the future; I mean tomorrow.
Peace cannot be imposed. It must be negotiated. But peace can only be negotiated with partners committed to peace, and Hamas is not a partner for peace. Hamas -- Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and to terrorism. They have a charter. That charter not only calls for the obliteration of Israel, it says: Kill the Jews everywhere you find them.
Hamas’ leader condemned the killing of Osama bin Laden and praised him as a holy
warrior. Now, again, I want to make this clear: Israel is prepared to sit down
today and negotiate peace with the Palestinian Authority. I believe we can
fashion a brilliant future for our children. But Israel will not negotiate with
a Palestinian government backed by the Palestinian version of al-Qaeda. That we
will not do.
I speak on behalf of the Jewish people and the Jewish state when I say to you, representatives of America: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your unwavering support for Israel. Thank you for ensuring that the flame of freedom burns bright throughout the world.
May God bless all of you, and may God forever bless the United States of America.
Page Updated: 9/20/20
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