Jews: 3 Things Obama Knows About Jewish People

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Speech in Jerusalem to the Israeli People. Proclamation of Jewish American Heritage Month Remarks to the Nation on Syria Crisis. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On Syria. On Yom HaShoah. Marking American Jewish Heritage Month.

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Authorizing Additional Sanctions with Respect to Iran. On Special Tribunal for Lebanon. I see the same spirit in the young people here today. And given the ties between our countries, I believe your future is bound to ours. So I'd like to focus on how we can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times: security, peace, and prosperity.

I will begin with security. I am proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger: more exercises between our militaries, and more exchanges among our political, military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge.

Those are the facts. But to me, this is not simply measured on the balance sheet.

I know that here, in Israel, security is something personal. So let me tell you what I think about when I consider these issues. When I consider Israel's security, I think about children like Osher Twito, who I met in Sderot — children, the same age as my own daughters, who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live. That's why we've invested in the Iron Dome system to save countless lives — because those children deserve to sleep better at night. That's why we have made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and have stood up for Israel's right to defend itself.

And that's why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria, who were blown up because of where they came from; who were robbed of the ability to live, and love, and raise families. That's why every country that values justice should call Hizbollah what it truly is — a terrorist organization. Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot at cities, and supports the massacre of men, women and children in Syria.

The fact that Hizbollah's ally — the Assad regime — has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency.

We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. And I have made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders: we will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people or the transfer of these weapons to terrorists. The world is watching, and we will hold you accountable. America will also insist that the Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power.

Assad must go so that Syria's future can begin. Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsive to its people — one that protects all communities within its borders, while making peace with countries beyond them. When I consider Israel's security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel's destruction.

It's no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat. But this is not simply a challenge for Israel — it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States. It would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism, undermine the non-proliferation regime, spark an arms race in a volatile region, and embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That is why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations. The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing.

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It is isolated. Its economy is in a dire condition. Its leadership is divided. And its position — in the region, and the world — has only grown weaker.

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All of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully. Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons. Moreover, peace is far more preferable to war, and the inevitable costs — and unintended consequences — that would come with it. Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution. That is what America will do — with clear eyes — working with a world that is united, and with the sense of urgency that is required.

But Iran must know this time is not unlimited. And I have made the position of the United States of America clear: Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained. As President, I have said to the world that all options are on the table for achieving our objectives. America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

For young Israelis, I know that these issues of security are rooted in an experience that is even more fundamental than the pressing threat of the day. You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected your right to exist. Your grandparents had to risk their lives and all they had to make a place for themselves in this world. Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state.

Your children grow up knowing that people they have never met hate them because of who they are, in a region that is changing underneath your feet. So that is what I think about when Israel is faced with these challenges — that sense of an Israel that is surrounded by many in this region who reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it. That is why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important — because it can never be taken for granted. But make no mistake: those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel's right to exist might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.

Today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — that so long as there is a United States of America, Ah-tem lo lah-vahd. The question, then, is what kind of future Israel will look forward to.

United Jewish Appeal

And that brings me to the subject of peace. I know Israel has taken risks for peace. Brave leaders — Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Rabin —reached treaties with two of your neighbors. You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis. You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets. Across the region, you have extended a hand of friendship, and too often have been confronted with the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and you have every right to be skeptical that it can be achieved.

But today, Israel is at a crossroads.


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It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace — particularly when an Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers, and so many other pressing issues demand your attention. And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country's future. I also know that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace. I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, and that's a part of democracy and the discourse between our two countries.

But it is important to be open and honest with one another. Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside, and express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.

First, peace is necessary. Indeed, it is the only path to true security. You can be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future.


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