WASHINGTON – Peace will begin when PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told AIPAC’s 2014 Policy Conference on Tuesday.
“Abbas must recognize the Jewish state,” Netanyahu, the last major speaker of the three day, 14,000-person event, said.
“In doing so, you’d be telling the Palestinians that, while we have a territorial dispute, the right of the Jewish people to a state of their own is beyond dispute.
“Recognize it. No excuses. No delays. It’s time,” he told the audience. “The Palestinians need to stop denying history.”
“Peace is Israel’s highest aspiration,” the prime minister said, reiterating that Israel was doing its fair share in trying to bring about an end to the conflict. “We are prepared to make a historic peace agreement with our Palestinian neighbors that will end a century of conflict.”
Netanyahu paid tribute to John Kerry, whom he called “indomitable” and “the secretary of state who never sleeps.
“We’re working day and night to secure a durable peace,” he told the American Israel Political Action Committee.
Joking about how much he likes to draw lines, he said, “I hope the Palestinian leadership will stand with Israel and the US on the right side of the moral divide. On the side of peace, reconciliation and hope.”
Netanyahu spoke with warmth and appreciation for his extremely supportive audience, a day after his tense meeting in the Oval Office, in which the prime minister sternly told US President Barack Obama that Israel was pulling its weight in the peace process while the Palestinians were not.
Netanyahu spent the bulk of his speech addressing the Iranian threat, especially in relation to the crisis in Syria. Recalling a visit to the Golan Heights field hospital that is treating Syrian refugees, he said that while Israel is exporting humanitarian workers all over the world to aid in disasters, “The only thing Iran sends abroad are rockets, terrorists and missiles.
“Iran continues to stand unabashedly on the wrong side of the moral divide,” Netanyahu said.
He reiterated his call for America to keep the economic pressure on with sanctions until Iran dismantles its nuclear program.
“I’m often asked whether Israel truly wants diplomacy to succeed,” he said. “The answer is of course we want diplomacy to succeed. But this threat will not be eliminated by just any deal; only a deal that allows Iran to fully dismantle its nuclear capability.”
The prime minister bashed the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, saying it stood with Iran on the “wrong side of the moral divide,” and that “in this knowledge-based century, Israel’s best economic days are ahead of it.
“Those who wear the BDS label should be treated exactly as we treat any other anti-Semite and bigot,” he said, receiving a standing ovation. “BDS is bad for peace and it is just plain wrong. It is morally wrong.”
Netanyahu paid tribute to US actress Scarlett Johansson, who starred in Israeli firm SodaStream’s Super Bowl ad on February 2, causing much controversy.
“BDS stands for bigotry, dishonesty and shame. Those who oppose BDS, like Scarlett Johansson, should be applauded,” he said.
The prime minister offered a hearty thanks to AIPAC for its continued support.
“Seventy years ago, our people were left for dead. We came back to life. We will never be brought to the brink of extinction again,” he said.
“America and Israel stand for life. We stand together on the right side of moral history.”