Leader McConnell Speaks at AIPAC Policy Conference
‘Thanks to your moral clarity, Israel and the United States are poised to keep standing strong together. Standing together to confront regional challenges. Standing together for the peace and security we all deserve. Standing up for the democratic values we hold dear. Standing together to weed out anti-Semitic hate and violence -- root, stem, and branch. Thank you for your work. Thank you for all you do.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered remarks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference today. The following are Leader McConnell’s remarks as delivered:
“Pretty tough act to follow. Good morning everyone. Thank you so much for the opportunity to be here once again. Every time I have the privilege to address this conference, I look forward to the size and enthusiasm of this crowd. And you all never disappoint. That’s a testament to dedicated leadership. I want to thank President Mort Fridman, Lillian Pinkus, Howard Kohr – and your entire outstanding team. You know, since we were last together, I’ve heard a lot of negative talk about people like all of us who attend a conference like this. I’ve heard it implied that patriotic Americans couldn’t possibly support Israel on the merits of the issue. So you and I must be questionable citizens with hidden agendas. I’ve heard it suggested that our support for Israel is explained away by money, or by secret dual loyalties of our Jewish friends here in Congress. I’ve heard even worse anti-Semitic slurs, and I know you have, as well.
“For many years, such slurs and tropes were limited to the fringes. Sadly, they have recently received new prominence, having been repeated and retweeted by a sitting member of Congress. From the get-go, I want to say this: Your advocacy is not a conspiracy. Your passion is nothing to apologize for. It is the essence of our democracy. Your advocacy gives voice to the love for Israel that exists across America. And despite what conspiracy theorists say, advocacy itself is not the cause of the bond between the United States and Israel. Its cause is the shared history and common values that draw America and Israel together. And the mutual adversaries who hate us for the principles and pluralism that set us apart.
“Remember, to the Mullahs in Tehran, the United States and Israel are the ‘Great Satan’ and ‘Little Satan.’ Our enemies group us together because we are cut from similar cloth. And frankly that should be a point of pride for all of us. As I look out at this crowd, I see a diverse crowd of Americans with whom I disagree on any number of policies. Many of you aren’t shy about letting me know it. But despite our differences, we are proudly united in support of America’s relationship with the State of Israel.
“None of you came here to hear partisan politics. It is not my intention to engage in it. But I’ve got to be honest with you. I am worried that, if we do not unite to take action against this growing tide of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment, we will live to regret what our politics become. So look, it may be that these views are confined to a small fringe today. But that small fringe is gaining momentum within the far left and increasingly shaping the left’s agenda. Left unchallenged, the ancient slanders and slurs will be normalized anew.
“Nobody in American politics -- nobody -- should need reminding that anti-Semitism is uniquely destructive. That it is not just another ‘-ism,’ but a hatred with a special and horrific history. So I am troubled that leading Democrats seem reluctant to plainly call out problems within their own ranks. And I am troubled that many of the declared Democrat presidential candidates seem to be avoiding this very gathering, apparently because political partisans who have levied scurrilous charges at this organization have warned they will be keeping watch and they’ll be taking names.
“As these candidates travel the country seeking votes and support, I hope they will come to see what I have seen in my decades of public life: That support for Israel has deep roots throughout our nation, throughout the communities you call home. I hope they see that these small flames of anger and hostility are nothing in comparison to the bright, shining light of Americans’ love and support for the state of Israel.
“It is fairly easy to come before this particular audience and denounce anti-Semitism. That’s a pretty easy thing to do. But actions speak louder than words. Action is what those of us in elected office need to deliver. So I would remind you, just a few weeks ago -- I’m proud to say -- the United States Senate did take action when we passed a package of legislation called S. 1. The first bill I called up in the Senate this Congress. What would S. 1 do? It would reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s security through military assistance, cooperative missile defense, and loan guarantees.
“It would deepen our strategic cooperation with Jordan and hold Bashar Assad’s butchers accountable for the murders of hundreds of thousands of civilians. It also put the Senate on record about the risks of withdrawing precipitously from Syria or Afghanistan, about the enduring stake we have in the Middle East, and about the need to stand with our friends and allies -- Israel foremost among them.
“A safe and stable Middle East is a shared interest. We cannot pull back and abandon this region to chaos. We’ve seen what happens when we do. After the previous administration’s withdrawal from Iraq and hands-off approach to Syria, ISIS erupted onto the scene and wound up with vast territory in the heart of the Middle East. Russia intervened in Syria, abetting Assad and Iran and constraining Israel and America’s options to defend our interests. Flush with cash from the failed nuclear ‘deal’, Iran expanded its influence, training and equipping terrorist proxies who now threaten Israel from its very borders. So, does anyone think that if Bashar Assad’s brutal regime controlled the Golan, that Iranian agents or Hizballah terrorists wouldn’t be threatening Israel from its commanding heights?
“Today, thanks to two years of a new strategy, the territorial caliphate of ISIS has been destroyed and Iran is again under the threat of crippling sanctions. And as Israel’s Prime Minister just pointed out, thanks to that new strategy, the U.S. Embassy is in Jerusalem where it belongs. And just the other day, the United States recognizes that the Golan is part of Israel. Period. So, my friends we are making strides. But our experience tells we must not let up.
“Now is the time for the United States to recommit to our partnerships in this troubled but important region. And that’s exactly what the Senate did when we passed S. 1 by a huge bipartisan margin. 77 out of 100 Senators. So, we sent it over to the House. And that’s where it sits. Now, the one thing the Speaker and the Majority Leader get to do is to decide what we’re going to do. So I would encourage the Speaker to call up the bill. I believe it would pass by a very large, bipartisan majority if given a chance for a vote. So as you go up on Capitol Hill, I hope you would encourage her to give it a vote. I think it would pass, and the president would sign it.
“Maybe House Democrats’ allergy to this particular legislation is because of one component in the legislation I haven’t mentioned yet but want to cover now. There’s one more element of S. 1 that seems to be particularly perplexing. The bill also takes aim at the so-called ‘BDS movement.’ And my friends, there’s a difference between a resolution and a law. What we passed in the Senate is a law. It’s not just talk – it’s a law. And it’s only one step away from going to the president for his signature. So I would encourage her – and you should encourage her – to call it up. Let the House vote. Send this S. 1 to the president and it will include a real tool for states and local governments so they can stop funneling taxpayer dollars to companies that back these anti-Israel boycotters. Remember, this is not a resolution – it’s a law. Our legislation would help American communities boycott the BDS boycotters.
“Now, when I called it up and we sent it over to the House, I didn’t expect this would be so controversial. The underlying bill had plenty of bipartisan support. But the outcry from the anti-Israel crowd has apparently paralyzed the House and scared them away from even considering our legislation. So look, I sincerely hope that the leading Democrats who have appeared at this conference to assure all of you they stand with Israel will find the courage to finally give this legislation a vote. Give it a vote in the House. Talk is cheap – give it a vote in the House.
“Hate in all its forms deserves swift and thorough condemnation. The anti-Muslim terrorist attacks in New Zealand are only the most recent horrific example of religious and ethnic violence that is intended to tear apart our societies. We are still reeling from these horrors. But I am struck by the reaction to these attacks by the American Jewish community and other communities of faith in America. In time of tragedy, these communities lived up to the greatest traditions of our respective faiths.
“Heartfelt sympathy for the victims. Immediate support for them and their families. Swift condemnation of the violence in the face of such horrors. From gunfire in New Zealand mosques to the massacre at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh and the tide of anti-Semitic incidents across Europe. We, my friends are faced with a choice. We could give into anger, fear, and division. Or we can double down on the best moral traditions of our faiths and our nations, and unite against violence, prejudice, and hate.
“Israel and the United States are founded on those moral traditions. It is why our friendship is so strong. It is why our partnership is so vital. And it is why despite the darkness we feel today, our future together is so bright. Our hearts today are with the people of Israel, who are again suffering under rocket attacks launched by Hamas terrorists. These attacks, like so many in the past, are designed to murder innocent people and terrorize an entire society.
“We must reject the hate that fuels this terror. We must confront the evil that foments it. So, thanks to your moral clarity, Israel and the United States are poised to keep standing strong together. Standing together to confront regional challenges. Standing together for the peace and security we all deserve. Standing up for the democratic values we hold dear. Standing together to weed out anti-Semitic hate and violence -- root, stem, and branch. Thank you for your work. Thank you for all you do. It’s been an honor to be with you. My best wishes. God bless America, and God bless Israel.”