On Sunday evening, Senator Hillary Clinton delivered the keynote address to a 700-strong crowd of students, faculty, and friends of Yeshiva University, at its 81st annual Hanukkah dinner. The university also bestowed New York’s junior senator with an honorary doctor of law degree, commending her “strong” advocacy for the state. In her speech, Clinton spoke of her high-profile trip last month to Israel, and the fight the United States and Israel share against terrorism.
Highlights from Clinton’s 30-minute address follow:
“I just returned from a trip to Israel. It was my second trip as senator, my first as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. My husband and I were there to memorialize a dear friend, someone whom I greatly admired, former Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Rabin. And my trip focused on shared security challenges that Israel and United States face. . . . The United States and Israel share deep and lasting bonds. . . . They are bonds forged in a common struggle for human rights, democracy, and freedom . . . There is no doubt that these strong bonds and values will remain as the lodestar of our relationship with our fellow democracy and ally. And Israel is not only our ally; it is a beacon of what democracy can and should mean. . . . If the people of the Middle East are not sure what democracy means, let them look to Israel.”
[. . .]
“The first priority of any government is to protect and ensure the safety of its citizens. And that is why I have been a strong supporter of Israel’s right to build a security barrier to try to keep those who would do harm to Israel out of Israel. I’ve taken the International Court of Justice to task for questioning Israel’s right to build the security barrier. On this trip, I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I went to Gilo, a Jerusalem neighborhood, and was briefed by Colonel Danny Tirza, who has overseen construction of the fence. He explained how before the construction commenced, residents of Gilo would come under fire. He left a very vivid image in my mind as he talked about how in the kitchens . . . facing the territory leading to Bethlehem, people would come and open the refrigerator to get something to eat or drink during a television break and get fired upon. He told me in great detail how hard the Israelis had worked to avoid constructing the fence. How when the shots began coming into Gilo, this colonel and others called their counterparts in Bethlehem and said, ‘We’re being fired upon. Find the people who are doing this and stop them.’ But it did not stop. His description of the necessity for the fence and its effectiveness left me with an even greater appreciation for [its] importance and rationale.”
[. . .]
“In addition, I held a series of meetings with Israeli officials, including the prime minister and the foreign minister and the head of the [Israeli Defense Force] to discuss such challenges we confront. In each of these meetings, we talked at length about the dire threat posed by the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran, not only to Israel, but also to Europe and Russia. Just this week, the new president of Iran made further outrageous comments that attacked Israel’s right to exist that are simply beyond the pale of international discourse and acceptability. During my meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, I was reminded vividly of the threats that Israel faces every hour of every day. An aide . . . interrupted him to tell him of a rocket attack on a town that lies near the Gaza Strip, a place that had often seen attacks. It became even more clear how important it is for the United States to stand with Israel, united against terror, as it begins to take risks, starting with the Gaza disengagement that the Israeli government is undertaking.”
[. . .]
Israelis have long had to make sacrifices in order to protect themselves. And we have to understand the significance of those sacrifices. Too many young soldiers have been lost protecting the lives and livelihood of Israel’s citizens, protecting the only democracy in the region. If Americans did not understand it before 9-11, it is abundantly clear now that we must stand beside Israel and make it clear we guarantee Israel’s security. . . . In defeating terror, Israel’s cause is our cause. The evil of terrorism, a burden long suffered by Israelis, threatens to rip apart the fabric of the Middle East. And our effort fighting terrorism there is akin to our effort fighting terrorism everywhere. . . . I have visited terrorist victims in the United States and Israel and Jordon. The shrapnel looks the same on a x-ray of an Israeli in a hospital in Jerusalem or on a young Jordanian. There is no way any person can possibly escape the effects of this terrorism. It knows no bounds of geography or human decency. New Yorkers have a special bond with terrorism victims. And in the course of our struggle against these forces, we have to remain not only vigilant and alert, but also committed to improving our own society, working to make it not just safer but stronger and better, not just smarter but more just.