William Daley, Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama, addressed the American Jewish Committee’s Global Forum in Washington, DC on April 28, 2011. During his speech, Daley emphasized the pro-Israel actions taken by Obama during his presidency.
Daley reasserted the United States’ commitment to Israel as the Middle East continues to experience dramatic political and societal changes. Daley also communicated the Obama Administration’s steadfast position that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and any Palestinian government must renounce violence, abide by past agreements and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
He also touched on key domestic topics, including energy independence and immigration.
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Daley’s full remarks can be read here.
Daley emphasized the Obama Administration’s “unshakeable” commitment to Israel in the face of the changing Middle East:
[A]s the Middle East evolves, some things will never change. The President’s support for Israel’s security has been, and will be, unshakeable.
He spoke about the conditions necessary to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, including the need for Hamas and other Palestinian groups to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist:
President Obama also understands that a crucial element of Israel’s long-term security will be a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East. This includes a two-state solution that allows both Israelis and Palestinians to live without fear of violence.
We have all seen the news about the agreement between Fatah and Hamas yesterday to form an interim government. The details of this agreement are not yet clear, so like the Israeli Government, we are seeking more information before deciding next steps. But as we have said before, the United States supports Palestinian reconciliation, provided it is on terms which advance the cause of peace. Hamas, however, is a terrorist organization which targets civilians. To play a constructive role in achieving peace, therefore, any Palestinian government must renounce violence. It must abide by past agreements. And it must recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Creating the conditions for peace will clearly not be easy, which is why President Obama has called on all parties to live up to their obligations. For the Palestinians, this includes accepting the fundamental principles of peace; ending incitement; and ensuring security. For the Arab states, it includes improving their relations with Israel, supporting the Palestinian Authority, and isolating terrorist organizations. And for Israel, it includes stopping settlement growth, ending evictions and demolitions, dismantling outposts, and improving access and movement in the West Bank.
These are the kinds of hard choices that are necessary for peace, and that only the parties themselves can make. We believe that the essence of peacemaking is compromise. As a friend and ally of Israel, and given our own national interest in comprehensive peace in the Middle East, the United States will support those who make these difficult choices.
Because as President Obama has said, in the pursuit of Middle East peace, there is no substitute for continued, active American leadership. That is why-even in the face of difficult challenges-he remains committed to a comprehensive peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
Daley reiterated the firm commitment of President Obama and his Administration to combating efforts that delegitimize Israel:
[U]nder President Obama, the U.S. has been firmly opposed to any attempts to de-legitimize Israel. In his speech to the United Nations in 2010, the President said that ‘Israel’s existence must not be a subject for debate,’ and ‘that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.’ This is why we withdrew from the Durban Review Conference. That is why we declared our support for Israel’s right to defend itself after the release of the Goldstone report. And that is why we have consistently opposed anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations.
He also highlighted some of the recent steps taken by the Obama Administration to augment Israel’s security:
[W]e have maintained full financial support for Israel, despite the difficult budget environment. This includes $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing for 2011, and an additional $205 million to support the anti-rocket and mortar system Iron Dome, which has already protected Israeli communities against attack.
We have also expanded security ties, increased military-to-military cooperation to unprecedented levels, and continued to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge. Secretary Gates has said that the U.S.-Israel defense relationship is stronger than it has ever been. And this strong relationship will continue under the President’s choice for the next Secretary of Defense-Leon Panetta.
Daley briefly summarized the actions taken by Obama to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran:
President Obama has also taken action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Under the President’s leadership, Iran faces the most unprecedented and isolating international sanctions in its history. We know the Iranian regime is trying to put its spin on recent events in the region, and suggest that its fortunes are on the rise. But this is 2011, and today’s protestors aren’t looking through the lens of 1979. They know, just as we do, that Iran has been brutally repressing its own people while trying to claim credit for the non-violent protests of others. The Iranian regime is on the wrong side of history.
He also briefly spoke about Obama’s plan to achieve domestic energy independence:
[O]ur dependence on foreign oil threatens both our economy, and our national security. The President is well aware that we’ve been talking about this issue for decades, and while he can’t solve this problem overnight, he refuses to hand it off to the next administration, or the next generation. When he took office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil every day. He has a plan to cut that number by one-third by 2025.
To accomplish this goal, the President has released a Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. His plan invests in alternatives to oil. It proposes new fuel economy standards. It helps create new markets for clean energy. It encourages domestic oil companies to develop the leases they already own. And it calls on the federal government to lead by example, by moving toward a fleet made up entirely of alternative-fuel vehicles.
Daley also reiterated Obama’s call for comprehensive immigration reform and urged Jewish groups to play a role:
President Obama was disappointed that the DREAM Act was not able to overcome a Senate filibuster, but he is determined to continue trying. In this year’s State of the Union Address, he asked Democrats and Republicans to work with him to take this issue on, once and for all. As he put it, ‘Let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.’
Just two weeks ago, the President met with leaders from the private sector, law enforcement, elected officials, and religious organizations to discuss the way forward. I know that meeting reinforced our shared belief that reforming our immigration system is possible.
For this effort to have the greatest chance of success, it needs the support of a wide variety of faith groups, including the Jewish community. ... And it needs moral leaders, like the ones in this room, to remind us why this issue is so important.