On Friday, Senator Barack Obama delivered a major policy address at AIPACâ€™s Chicago Policy Forum. Senator Obama declared â€œour job is to never forget the threat of violence is real,â€ and stated that the effort to â€œrebuild the road to real peace and lasting securityâ€ must begin â€œwith a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy.â€
Obama also called for tough action against Iran, saying that â€œIran nuclear weapons would destabilize the region and could set off a new arms race.â€
Â§Back in January of 2006, I made my first trip to the Holy Land. It is a place unlike any other on this earth â€“ a place filled with so much promise of what we truly can be as people; a place where weâ€™ve learned how in a flash, violence and hatred and intolerance can turn that promise to rubble and send too many lives to their early graves.
Â§Just six months after I visited, Hezbollah launched four thousand rocket attacks just like the one that destroyed the home in Kiryat Shmona, and kidnapped Israeli service members. And we pray for all of the service members who have been kidnapped: Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev, and Ehud Goldwasser, and I met with his family this week. I offered to help in any way I can.
It is important to remember this historyâ€”that Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Lebanon only to have Iran supply Hezbollah with thousands of rockets.
Â§Our job is to never forget that the threat of violence is real. Our job is to renew the United Statesâ€™ efforts to help Israel achieve peace with its neighbors while remaining vigilant against those who do not share this vision. Our job is to do more than lay out another road map; our job is to rebuild the road to real peace and lasting security throughout the region.
Â§One of the heavy stones that currently rest at the United Statesâ€™ feet is Iraq. Until we lift this burden from our foreign policy, we cannot rally the world to our values and vision.
Â§Iranâ€™s President Ahmadinejadâ€™s regime is a threat to all of us. His words contain a chilling echo of some of the worldâ€™s most tragic history.
Â§Unfortunately, history has a terrible way of repeating itself. President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust. He held a conference in his country, claiming it was a myth. But we know the Holocaust was as real as the 6 million who died in mass graves at Buchenwald, or the cattle cars to Dachau or whose ashes clouded the sky at Auschwitz. We have seen the pictures. We have walked the halls of the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem. We have touched the tattoos on loved-ones arms. After 60 years, it is time to deny the deniers.
Â§We can and we should help Israelis and Palestinians both fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security. Both the Israeli and Palestinian people have suffered from the failure to achieve this goal. The United States should leave no stone unturned in working to make that goal a reality.
Â§But in the end, we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.
Â§Peace with security. That is the Israeli peopleâ€™s overriding wish.
Senator Obama has a longstanding commitment to Israel. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet talked about this commitment in a March 1st blog entry:
"Let me share something. Last August, Obama was in Cape Town, South Africa, at a time when Israel was being criticized for overreacting for its military attacks in Lebanon in response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Obama was speaking to a group at a cultural institution called The Center for the Book, which provided a friendly venue for the Illinois Democratic. The crowd, clearly hostile to Israel, expected Obama to bash Israel on Lebanon. He did not. They were surprised.
They just did not know Obama well enough to realize who they were dealing with."