Given on: April 23, 2002
Certain sections were emboldened by me.
You may want to also see: John McCain on the Israeli - Palestinian Conflict

There will always be an Israel. The terrorist onslaught against her people represents not progress towards a refoundation of historic Palestine but a plunge into an abyss of moral decay perpetrated in the name of the Palestinian people by their own leaders. There will always be an Israel, because the Israeli people will defend their homeland against murderers who pose as martyrs, and will never accept justice imposed on them by leaders who send children to kill their children.

There will always be an Israel, strong and free, because Israel, and her supporters in this country, will never allow the depravity of her enemies to obscure the moral clarity that inspired her founding, 54 years ago last week, as the homeland of a people who understood evil long before Americans saw its more recent expression on September 11.

Terrorism is terrorism, whether in the form of professional killers who crash civilian aircraft into buildings or amateur murderers undistinguished by anything other than their willingness to take innocent lives.

A political solution to the conflict with the Palestinians is the best answer to Israeli insecurity, of course. But no moral nation--neither Israel nor America--can allow terrorists to chart the political course of its people. No freedom-loving nation can tolerate a terrorist state on its border. And no great nation can abandon the obligations of moral clarity for the convenience of situational ethics.

If we are serious about the values we in America and Israel live by, and the opportunities we would like all people in the Middle East to enjoy, we can allow terrorists no role in the political process.

Indeed, we must work to spread our values in the Middle East, first by opposing tyranny in the Arab world. The celebration of freedom in the streets of liberated Baghdad will serve as a counterpoint to the state-directed Arab media's distortion of the Palestinian conflict. It will be a reminder to other Arab tyrants that the United States is a natural ally of Arab people who aspire to freedom. Freeing Arabs from repression by tyrannical regimes is the priority of neither Yasser Arafat nor the dictators he counts as his allies. But bringing liberty's blessings to Arab peoples will do much more to improve their lives than will their jihad against Israel.

Unfortunately, when it comes to advocating freedom and opportunity in the Arab world, our values know few champions. In the monarchies and dictatorships of the Middle East, cynicism is the essence of statecraft. Americans find ourselves handicapped in our Middle East diplomacy by a native regard for moral clarity.

It is our fidelity to the values Arab leaders reject that makes it unmistakably clear to Americans who destroyed the peace process begun in Oslo. The authors of that disaster were the Palestinians themselves--and the Arab leaders who encouraged or accepted Yasser Arafat's rejection of the sweeping settlement offered by former Prime Minister Barak at Camp David, and provided rhetorical and material support for the ensuing intifada waged by suicide bombers.

I don't think our cultural differences with Arab states are so vast that a common recognition of what constitutes real peace and a just settlement is unattainable. I think Arab leaders know exactly what it will take to achieve real peace between Palestinians and Israelis, and that what they currently offer serves only to perpetuate the conflict.

Telethons and poems glorifying suicide bombers are not steps toward peace. Cash payments to the families of suicide bombers are not steps toward peace. Communiqués glorifying the murder of innocents are not steps toward peace. All of this is evil, pure and simple.

It is not peace, but fear of each other that motivates Arab dictators, and fear of their own populations, whose resentments toward Israel and America have been inflamed for generations to distract them from grievances against their own rulers for the economic and political inequities they are expected to endure permanently.

It is the unenlightened rule of Arab dictators, not the plight of the Palestinians, that condemns the Arab world to the civilizational crisis in which it finds itself. Which Middle Eastern nation grants its Arab citizens the most political freedom? Israel. Which countries' leaders have the blood of innocents on their hands but hear nothing about it from the Arab League? Iraq, Syria, and Sudan, for starters. Which country has the most egregious record of occupying another today? Syria, in Lebanon. In which countries do Palestinian refugees suffer without rights and the most basic freedoms? Other than Israel, only Jordan has treated these people with any dignity. Which nation in the region has matched its payments to the families of Palestinian murderers with money for health care, education, and other development in the territories? Not one.

How Arab leaders can abide their own hypocrisy is one question. Why they expect us to do so is a better one. Arab leaders recoil in mock indignation from any suggestion that they have a responsibility to discourage Palestinian treachery. Instead, they demand that the United States pressure the government of Israel into forsaking its obligation to defend its citizens from terrorism that Arab governments celebrate and support.

I'm also distressed that some of our European allies are dismissing Israel's legitimate security concerns. In some quarters, Jews are once again threatened with attacks on their institutions. We are witnessing once again the torching of European synagogues. All world leaders must condemn, in the strongest terms, such despicable behavior.

Israel has proved its willingness to risk its strategic interests by returning territories captured in war, and living cheek by jowl with a Palestinian state in exchange for peace and acceptance of Israel's right to exist by its Arab neighbors. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority he claims to lead insist on a settlement that would threaten the eventual extinction of a Jewish state in the Middle East, and accept and support murder as a means to achieve it. Official sponsorship of Palestinian terror is a self-induced mockery of the Palestinian leadership's moral authority, and that of its Nobel Peace Prize-winning chairman.

The Oslo peace process was premised on the notion that Israelis and Palestinians could live together. I believe it is now time to explore ways in which they can live apart. It is time to consider alternatives such as that proposed by former Prime Minister Barak--to erect a security barrier between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This is not to accept the hopelessness of a political solution, but to embrace the hope that Israel's people can live in safety until a Palestinian leadership truly committed to peace emerges from the chaos and despair inflicted on Palestinians for generations by leaders who lack the courage and compassion and wisdom to make a better life for their people.

Friends, I make no claim to wisdom on how to resolve the crisis in the Middle East. Like you, I look for guidance in the values we share with the only democracy in the region. I know this: no American leader should be expected to sell a false peace to our ally, consider Israel's right to self-defense less legitimate than ours, or insist that Israel negotiate a political settlement while terrorism remains the Palestinians' preferred bargaining tool.

The moral clarity you bring to American understanding of Israel's plight is the most effective antidote to the cynicism and hostility that parade as Arab diplomacy in the Middle East today. We will defeat terrorism against America, and we will stand with Israel as she fights the same enemy.

One of the great privileges of my life was the friendship that I developed with the late Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson. I got to know Scoop when I was the Navy liaison to the Senate in the late '70s. Scoop was and remains the model of what an American statesman should be. In 1979, I traveled to Israel with Scoop, where I knew he was considered a hero. I had no idea how great a hero he was until we landed in Tel Aviv. When we arrived, we were transferred to a bus big enough to accommodate our large delegation, as well as the U.S. Ambassador in Israel and several of his staff. About a hundred yards outside the airport, the bus was surrounded by a crowd of seven or eight hundred Israelis screaming for Jackson, waving signs that read "God Bless you, Scoop," "Senator Jackson, thank you," and dozens of other tributes. For a patriot like Scoop, their affection for him was nothing less than affection for America.

Scoop understood a deep truth. The bond between America and Israel is not just a strategic one, though that is important. Today, in the war against terror, we have no stronger ally than Israel. The more profound tie between our two countries, however, is a moral one. We are two democracies whose alliance is forged in our common values. To be proudly pro-American and pro-Israeli is not to hold conflicting loyalties. As Scoop understood, it is about defending the principles that both countries hold dear.

And I stand before you today, proudly pro-American and pro-Israel.

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