WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was his country’s biggest booster Tuesday as he championed Israeli innovation and the Jewish state’s improved diplomatic standing,
The final speaker at the AIPAC’s 2018 Policy Conference, Netanyahu said Israeli-driven innovation “revolutionizes all the industries and creates new industries,” which he then credited with helping to strengthen Israel’s military, economic and diplomatic relations with other countries.
“Because we have this tremendous capacity for security and intelligence and because we have this tremendous capacity for civilian technology – for making the lives of civilians safer, more productive – more countries are coming,” he told attendees at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center here.
Netanyahu pledged to counteract the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that encourages countries to divest from Israeli companies and partners.
“Remember people talked about Israel’s isolation? Pretty soon the countries that don’t have relations with us, they’re going to be isolated,” he said. “There are those who talk about boycotting Israel. We’ll boycott them.”
Concerning relations with Iran, Netanyahu, like many other speakers at the conference, harkened back to what he called the Obama administration’s “fatally flawed” Iran nuclear deal that critics say allowed the country to continue developing nuclear weapons without consequence and build an “aggressive empire. We must stop Iran. We will stop Iran,” he said.
Supporters of the deal maintain that without it, Iran would be a nuclear weapons state today.
Although Netanyahu praised President Donald Trump for declaring he will not accept Iran’s aggression, other speakers said the administration needs a comprehensive strategy.
“The administration has yet to fully use the tools we have provided, nor have they developed a comprehensive strategy,” said Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), referring to Congress’ decision to give the president more power in determining and imposing sanctions. “The United States has leverage right now and I want the administration to use it.”
On the subject of Trump’s Middle East peace plan, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said the entire administration was committed to a “real plan for peace and we’re not giving up.”
He took a swipe at J Street, a liberal advocacy organization that favors a two-state solution and opposes Israel’s settlement drive, putting itself at odds with the Netanyahu government.
J Street describes itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace.” Friedman, a supporter of the settlement movement, said the statement was misleading because it implied there were people who were pro-Israel and anti-peace.
“Everyone living in Israel wants peace, yearns for peace and prays for peace,” he said. “If there is no peace in the Middle East, I strongly suggest we blame somebody other than Israel.”
Netanyahu echoed that sentiment, telling the crowd that they “know very well that Israel is not the enemy” and pushing for the passage of the Taylor Force Act, which limits American assistance to the Palestinian Authority unless they show they are taking steps to end acts of violence.
After the conference, AIPAC attendees went to Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress on legislation. Their agenda is focused on funding Israeli security assistance, taking stronger action to oppose Iranian nuclear ambitions and fighting economic boycotts against Israel.
“All of you guys are ambassadors as well, perhaps just with a lowercase ‘a’,” Friedman told conference goers. “As ambassadors you share with me the responsibility to share the case for Israel.” PJC
This article has been updated to clarify that the lobbying agenda for AIPAC 2018 did not include the Taylor Force Act.
Lauren Rosenblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.