2012 AIPAC Policy Conference Day 2 by Claire Cohen

A Good Friend Retires

 

As expected, retiring Senator Joe Lieberman was met warmly by the 13,000 attendees at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference as he is a strong friend of Israel. He began by assuring everyone that, “I am leaving the senate, but I am not retiring.” The moment of his speech which was met by the loudest standing ovation, from the audience, came when he declared the fact that the American Embassy in Israel is not in Jerusalem as one the pieces of unfinished business which he regrets and hopes will soon be rectified. Like all speakers at this year’s conference, he then spoke about Iran. He reiterated Obama’s point that containment is not an option and that all possibilities are still on the table. Lieberman voiced his support of taking military action against Iran, if necessary. “Either you peacefully negotiate and end your illicit nuclear facilities or they will be ended for you be a military attack,” proclaimed Lieberman.

 

Sovereign State of Mind

 

Dr. Tal Becker, former advisor to Israel’s minister of foreign affairs and a current International Associate at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a Senior Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, stressed that Israel must think of itself with a sovereign state of mind. This mindset comes from the language used to describe Israel, the feelings Israel broadcasts, and the ability to remember that Israel is a place for all Jewish people. As well, Dr. Becker credited AIPAC for broadcasting Israel’s invincibility to the world.

 

Superstar Netanyahu

 

The highlight of the AIPAC Policy Conference is the large gala event. Prior to the event I had the opportunity to meet Senator Sherrod Brown, Congresswoman Betty Sutton and Congressman Tim Ryan. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with them and it proved to me the importance of building personal relationships with them in order to encourage them to make pro-Israel votes.

Upon entering the large room with all 13,000 participants at this year’s conference, I could tell that the energy in the room was the highest it has been all conference as everyone was looking forward to hearing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak. Prior to Netanyahu, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate, brought the house down when he announced that if Iran begins to enrich uranium to weapons grade or develop weapon systems to deliver nuclear warheads then he will introduce a resolution so that the United States uses overwhelming force to end the nuclear program. This was the red line, the entire conference had been waiting for.

The longest applause of the entire conference came when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the podium to speak. The house was buzzing with excitement, which lasted throughout his entire speech. It was unusual for him to speak more than two sentences without receiving a standing ovation. Much of his speech was focused on Iran, and many of his beliefs on the topic were similar to those of President Obama. If Iran is not stopped from obtaining a nuclear weapon, he explained, terrorism will dramatically increase, the strait of Hormuz will close, they will set off a mad dash by the rest of the Middle East to develop nuclear weapons and the entire world will face the threat of nuclear terrorism. He also reiterated almost the exact line that President Obama said, “Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against anyone.” By the time Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded his speech, I had gone from my seat to my feet dozens of times and I truly felt proud to be an Israel activist.