Netanyahu at AIPAC: Israel Committed to Working With Trump to Achieve Peace With Palestinians

Netanyahu vows to 'speak clearly against anti-Semitism' in prerecorded address to pro-Israel lobby.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks via a video link from Israel to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2017.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks via a video link from Israel to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, U.S., March 27, 2017. JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

WASHINGTON - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that "Israel is committed to working with President Trump to achieve peace with the Palestinians and all our Arab neighbors."

>> Get all updates on Israel, Trump and the Palestinians: Download our free App, and Subscribe >>

Addressing the pro-Israel lobby in a prerecorded video, Netanyahu said "We'll defend ourselves not only on the psychical battlefield, but on the moral battlefield. We'll defend ourselves against slander and boycotts.

"Israel will stand ever vigilant, always ready to defend ourselves [and] will speak clearly against anti-Semitism."

>> Pence's purified version of Trump draws cheers at AIPAC | Chemi Shalev >>

Regarding the Palestinians, Netanyahu said "the Palestinian Authority must stop teaching children to hate and must stop paying terrorists, and must above all recognize the Jewish State," adding: "My hand is extended to all our neighbors in peace."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses AIPAC's annual conference AIPAC / YouTube

On the topic of Israel's ties with the United States, the prime minister said: "We confront the same enemies and cherish the same freedoms, these are the things that bring Israelis and Americans together."

Mentioning that Israel is "fast becoming a global technological power," Netanyahu said that Israel "wouldn't be the country it is today without the steadfast support of the United States of America." 

Speaking on the first day of AIPAC's conference, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said that U.S. President Donald Trump was "seriously considering" moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Pence also said that Trump was committed to "finding an equitable and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" and to "forging a lasting peace in the Middle East."

Herzog calls for bold steps

In his appearance at the conference on Monday, Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition in the Knesset and head of the Zionist Union, called for bold steps in the pursuit of peace. Saying that Jews would be in the minority in a single country comprised of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, he said Israel and the Palestinians must separate.

"This is my vision. I believe we have to be cautious. We have to be responsible. Israel's security" takes precedence. But he said Israel must talk to its neighbors "because there is an opportunity, because there is a convergence of interests between moderate Arab states and Israel at this given moment, because we can just knock at the door and enter into the region and finally be welcomed in the region,"

The process requires American involvement, he added. Noting that he had met with President Trump's Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, Herzog said he has concluded that "Trump is heavily committed towards reaching peace between Israel and the Arabs."

On Sunday, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer suggested in his speach before AIPAC that Israel's relationship with Trump is better than with any previous U.S. administration. The envoy praised the new U.S. envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, and said that she was "finally bringing clarity" to the UN with regard to Israel.

Speaking ahead of Dermer, AIPAC's president, Lilian Pinkus, tried to highlight the importance of bipartisan support for Israel, and warned that the pro-Israeli community should not let Israel "fall victim" to the divisive nature of U.S. politics in the current era. She repeated a number of times that it was important to preserve support for Israel among both Democrats and Republicans.

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who has spent the last decade trying to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians, spoke about the importance of advancing Israel's partnerships with the Arab world. However, he said that in order to achieve that, Israel would have to make progress toward peace with the Palestinians.

Last year at the AIPAC conference, Netanyahu said that he expected the Obama Administration to oppose any international initiative to advance a resolution on the Israel-Palestinian issue at the United Nations Security Council. Netanyahu, who spoke via satellite after having cancelled his trip to Washington two weeks earlier, said that some members of the international community are interested in forcing Israel to accept U.N. conditions, and he hopes the United States will stick by its longstanding policy and reject these efforts.