Posted 4:14 p.m. April 23
by Patrick W. Higgins
U-WIRE (DC BUREAU)
(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered solutions for a lasting peace in the Middle East as White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card called for a free-standing Palestinian state alongside Israel during separate speeches at the fourth annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, D.C., Monday night.
Card and Netanyahu were joined by a distinguished guest list that included half of the U.S. Senate, a quarter of the U.S. House of Representatives and various foreign ambassadors as well as more than 700 college students.
The conference was held amidst approximately 1,000 pro-Palestinian protestors who blocked traffic in front of the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue, were the conference was held.
Netanyahu announced he was going to disregard his planned speech on the advice of a close friend and outline a plan for peace, a peace he believes is vital to and reliant on the United States.
“I want to talk about a real peace,” the former prime minister said, “not a photo-op peace that crumbles before the negatives are developed. There is only one kind of piece in the 21st century, and that is the peace of democracy.”
The former prime minister called for the defeat of Islamic militants as the first step towards a permanent peace, relating the Arab suicide bomber mentality to that of Nazism and imperialism in Japan during World War II. This plan revolved, Netanyahu claimed, on the toppling of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as well as Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
“As long as that man [Arafat] is there,” he said, “the terror will not stop, and no type of peace will begin.”
Netanyahu drew parallels and differences between the communists from the Soviet Union following World War II and the Islamic militants of the 21st century, claiming at least the communists were more concerned with their lives than their ideals, leading to the “Cold Peace” as he referred to the Cold War.
“Communists, when faced with ideology and survival, chose survival, but Islamic militants, when faced with the same choice, often chose ideology, making them a culture of death,” he said.
The next step in Netanyahu’s plan included the alliance of democratic nations throughout the world in a campaign against terrorists and the regimes that harbor them. He called for a freezing of terrorists’ assets and a sharing of intelligence among nations, a forum the United Nations ideally is intended to provide but in fact does not, in his opinion.
The former prime minister blasted the United Nations for its investigative inquiries into possible “massacres” by Israeli soldiers while they have remained largely inactive in what Netanyahu called “the proven massacres against the Israeli people.”
The former prime minister praised President George W. Bush and the American people, portraying terrorists’ threats to Israel as threats to America on several instances during the speech.
“I have said it before and I will say it again here tonight, there has never been a greater friend to Israel in the White House than President George W. Bush,” he said. “I have never found such openness as in America. The people are willing to not only hear, but also to listen.”
Citing the long-standing friendship between the United States and Israel, Netanyahu asked for continued U.S. support in dismantling what he called terrorist regimes in the Middle East before those nations were able to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, something the former prime minister called “quite simple.”
Netanyahu ended his nearly hour-long speech by saying, “The root cause of terrorism is totalitarianism, and the root cause of suicidal terrorism is Islamic militant totalitarianism. To get somebody to blow up a bus full of babies, you must tamper with their hearts and their souls.”
The former prime minister’s speech echoed Card’s brief message, delivered on behalf of the president: The United States will remain a close ally of Israel.
Following the two hours of speeches, Netanyahu met with the college students on hand for a few moments and reiterated his call to action on college campuses. The students warmly received the man they called “B.B.,” often joining in traditional Hebrew songs.
Mike Alcheck, a student at Emory University, said he felt “energized” by Netanyahu’s words, saying, “I think that it is fantastic that he’s electrifying us, giving us the boast of energy that we need on our campuses. We need to find the truth and we hope everyone else will find it as well.”
Trying to talk over a hysterical girl screaming repeatedly, “He touched my hand, B.B. touched my hand, and I’m never going to wash it again,” Eytan Eilender, a student at University of Florida, stressed the feeling of enthusiasm among the students.
“It was a rush — it was very inspiring, and hopefully everyone will go back to their campuses with Netanyahu’s message,” he said.
The speeches were part of a three-day conference that hosted such distinguished speakers as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres.