Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken started his keynote address to the AJC Global Forum June 8 with some humor before delving into the serious topics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iran nuclear negotiations and anti-Semitism.
“It’s a real pleasure to join all of you and see so many familiar faces — even if mine wasn’t the one you were looking for,” Blinken quipped before an audience gathered at the Washington Hilton’s International Ballroom. The remark was in reference to the visible absence of the day’s originally scheduled speaker — Secretary of State John Kerry, who was sidelined by a biking accident in southern France.
Declaring that no administration and no president has done more for Israel’s security than President Barack Obama, Blinken said the United States soon would deliver to Israel the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, making Israel the only country in the Middle East with what Blinken described as the most advanced fighter jet in the world.
Blinken said that the administration would continue working toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “prerequisite for long-term regional stability and the preservation of a true and secure democracy in the Jewish homeland.”
As an example of how committed Obama is to Israel’s security and future, Blinken told a story about how last summer during the height of the Gaza crisis, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer contacted Blinken with an urgent funding request to resupply interceptors for the Iron Dome missile defense system.
“Get it done,” was Obama’s response the next day when Blinken went to the Oval Office and relayed Dermer’s request. A few days later, an additional $225 million in funding was secured.
“We may have our differences, but our bedrock security relationship is sacrosanct, and I’m here to tell you it is stronger than ever,” Blinken said to applause.
On Iran, Blinken said that the United States and Israel share the conviction that Iran must not under any circumstances be allowed to obtain a nuclear weapon. While conceding that a comprehensive agreement might not get done by the June 30 deadline, Blinken said the deal would be the best way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
Addressing concerns about the deal, he challenged those opposed to a comprehensive agreement to explain what their alternative would be.
“You’ll have an obligation too. Here in the United States, you’ll have an obligation to tell the American people exactly what you would do differently and exactly how you would get it done,” Blinken said.
Added Blinken: A nuclear-free Iran is a “critical step to greater global security for the United States, for Israel and for all the partners in the region.”
Blinken concluded his speech by discussing the “deeply disturbing” rise in global anti-Semitism and the administration’s commitment to combatting it.
While praising groups like AJC for doing their part to address anti-Semitism, he said Jewish groups can’t do it alone because anti-Semitism is not just a Jewish problem.
“Anti-Semitism, like all forms of prejudice, is a fundamental threat to democracies and open societies in every corner of the world,” Blinken said. “It’s simple. We cannot and we will not tolerate it.”
Josh Marks writes for Washington Jewish Week. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.