McConnell Speaks at AIPAC Policy Conference
‘The challenges that Israel and America face today are challenges we must face together, with deep friendship and shared resolve. Israel lives in a neighborhood which includes a profoundly broken Syria, a dangerous Iran, the threat of ISIL in the Sinai and an emboldened Hezbollah. But today, tomorrow, and always, Israel’s beacon of democracy will continue to shine through the darkness. And America will be right there, standing proudly alongside our friends.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference:
“Good morning. Speaking at AIPAC is a real honor. I’ve had the privilege of addressing this audience and my fellow friends of Israel on multiple occasions, and I must say it is so good to be back.
“I want to add my congratulations to Dr. Mort Fridman as he begins what I am sure will be a distinguished tenure as president of this invaluable organization. I’d like to thank outgoing President Lillian Pinkus for her years of service, along with Howard Kohr, Bob Cohen, and all those friends who make AIPAC’s important work possible.
“When I was here last March, the U.S.-Israel relationship had reached an important turning point. For eight years, America had drawn down our forces and altered our purpose. And the consequences had become clear. As our forces and forward presence were diminished, complex and lethal threats emerged. The civil war within Syria devolved into an epicenter of regional conflict. A split within Al Qaeda in Iraq spawned the terrorist army we know as ISIL. The intervention by Iran in support of Bashar al Assad brought Hezbollah and Shia militias to Israel’s doorstep.
“Iran’s regional ambitions were bolstered by a fatally flawed nuclear deal which gave international legitimacy to Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Iran gained sanctions relief, and worked aggressively to spread its influence through malign behavior and expansionism. Supreme Leader Khamenei’s regime had become an even more menacing shadow behind destabilizing forces in Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
“The Obama administration’s fealty to the nuclear deal spawned a reluctance to address Iran’s regional ambitions. The notion that Sunni powers in the Middle East needed to learn to ‘share the neighborhood’ with Iran created a void. And Iran was happy to exploit that void, menacing our ships and planes deployed to the Persian Gulf.
“All these failures stemmed from a central misunderstanding: For eight years, the previous administration failed to lead as an ally. It failed to recognize that the U.S. and Israel are stronger together, and that we share a commonality of interests. It’s more than just national friendship and shared history. Yes, America was the first country to recognize Israel’s Jewish government in 1948. Yes, in 1985, America’s first-ever free trade agreement was signed with none other than Israel.
“But it’s also just a reality of our world. Israel is safer because of America’s presence in the Middle East. And American interests benefit when Israel stands as a partner in pursuit of common interests in this troubled region. Fortunately, in the last year, a new administration and a united front in Congress have charted a new course. America is rebuilding our capabilities, our partnerships, and our will to do what the circumstances require.
“Many of our regional partners are focused on Iran’s aggressive policies and seeking America’s support. But make no mistake: Israel will have the firm support of the United States, diplomatically and militarily, as befits this historic partnership. Though the campaign to defeat ISIL is not over, this administration accelerated it. It began a genuine effort to rebuild America’s armed forces.
“And Congress answered the call by ending the harmful spending caps that had forced our servicemembers to do more with less. Secretary Mattis and our military leaders will once again have more resources to meet the myriad missions our nation puts before them. Our counterterrorism cooperation has been exemplary.
“And of course, the United States has finally taken a long-overdue step and recognized that Israel’s true capital is Jerusalem. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, plain and simple. Jerusalem is where the United States embassy belongs. And in just a few months, for the first time ever, that’s exactly where it will be.
“The challenges that Israel and America face today are challenges we must face together, with deep friendship and shared resolve. Israel lives in a neighborhood which includes a profoundly broken Syria, a dangerous Iran, the threat of ISIL in the Sinai and an emboldened Hezbollah. But today, tomorrow, and always, Israel’s beacon of democracy will continue to shine through the darkness. And America will be right there, standing proudly alongside our friends. Thank you for your passion. Thank you for your advocacy. Thank you for not letting anyone forget the necessity of this time-tested partnership.”
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