(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 separate Palestinian and Israeli states Monday night.
Speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference at the Washington Hilton, Card and Netanyahu were joined by a distinguished guest list that included half of the U.S. Senate, a fourth of the U.S. House of Representatives, foreign ambassadors and more than 700 college students. AIPAC, the fifth-largest lobbing group in the nation, has hosted the convention every year since 1999.
About 40 GW students attended the three-day conference, which included Israel advocacy sessions and panel discussions on media coverage and the war on terrorism.
President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were scheduled to speak but did not show. Bush did not accept the invitation to attend, and Sharon did not attend because of the increasing tensions in the Middle East. Card spoke on behalf of Bush, and Sharon spoke via satellite Tuesday morning.
Outside the hotel, about 1,000 pro-Palestinian demonstrators assembled on Connecticut Avenue.
Netanyahu announced that he would disregard his planned speech as a friend had advised him to do and instead outline a plan for peace, which he said is dependent on U.S action.
“I want to talk about a real peace, not a photo-op peace that crumbles before the negatives are developed,” the former prime minister said. “There is only one kind of peace in the 21st century, and that is the peace of democracy.”
Netanyahu called for the defeat of Islamic militants as the first step toward a permanent peace, relating the Arab suicide bomber mentality to that of Nazism and imperialism in Japan during World War II. His plan revolves around the toppling of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
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 sharing of intelligence among nations.
Netanyahu affirmed his support for Bush, even after insistence from that White House that Sharon withdraw troops from the West Bank.
“There has never been a greater friend of Israel in the White House than President George W. Bush,” he said.
The former prime minister blasted the United Nations for its investigative inquiries into possible “massacres” by Israeli soldiers while remaining largely inactive in what Netanyahu called “the proven massacres against the Israeli people.”
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 Middle Eastern countries before those nations acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, something the former prime minister called “quite simple.”
Netanyahu ended his nearly hour-long speech by identifying the cause of terrorism, 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,” he said.
Netanyahu’s speech echoed Card’s brief and simple message: the United States will always remain a close ally of Israel.
“To the core of his being, President Bush knows that the American-Israeli connection is deep and vital to our country,” Card said.
Students who attended the conference said they enjoyed the chance to see such high-profile speakers.
“Something like this conference really gives you a feeling of unity,” freshman Sam Cutler said.
“I just thought that the entire conference was amazing,” freshman Rebecca Horwitz said. “It was a rush to be with 700 pro-Israeli students.”
The conference also hosted such distinguished speakers as Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres, who spoke by satellite Tuesday morning, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).