National Security Advisor Susan Rice told a largely Jewish audience Monday that Israel and the United States have an “ironclad bond.”
“Israel’s security isn’t a Democratic interest or a Republican interest, it’s an American interest,” she told 2,700 people gathered at the Washington Hilton for the AJC Global Forum. Rice’s speech was a highlight of the three-day American Jewish Committee’s event, which dealt with issues of interest to the Jewish community.
Rice received polite applause throughout the 30-minute speech as she repeated the refrain “Israel is not alone” while describing attacks by Hamas and other groups committed to Israel’s destruction.
While Rice spent much of her speech assuring her audience of the Obama administration’s support for Israel, she also included a line of concern for the Palestinians.
“When Palestinians are attacked by mobs shouting death to Arabs and Palestinian homes or mosques are vandalized, the Palestinian people are not alone,” she said.
Rice used her remarks to tout the administration’s efforts in securing the “largest military assistance package with any country in American history,” which is estimated to provide Israel with about $40 billion over 10 years.
Rice also addressed last year’s controversial Iran nuclear deal, which she praised by saying that Iran’s breakout time for producing a nuclear weapon is now one year, rather than a few months as it was before the agreement.
“Whether or not you supported this deal, the results are undeniable,” she said. “Iran has disassembled two-thirds of its centrifuges. They’ve shipped out 98 percent of their enriched uranium stockpile.”
Rice also mentioned Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to Paris last week for a Middle East peace summit – which neither Israelis nor Palestinians attended. She said the basic message of the conference was an affirmation of the two-state solution as the only path toward a peaceful future in the region, but one that cannot be “imposed on the parties.”
Rice did not shy away from condemning Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, just as Vice President Joe Biden also did at the AIPAC policy conference in March.
“Settlement activity corrodes the prospects for two states,” she said. “It moves us toward a one- state reality. Israel’s future as a Jewish democratic state is at stake.”
Rice’s views on the West Bank were echoed earlier that day by Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who said that the Israel’s lack of progress in separating from the Palestinians presents a “serious demographic threat to its future.”
“In the meanwhile, violence continues to flourish, the de-legitimization of Israel gathers steam, and the international community grows increasingly irritated by the reality in the West Bank,” said Herzog, who leads the center-left Zionist Union party.
Absent from the conference was any sense of political division in the audience, and cordial applause was heard throughout most of the large sessions.
Despite Rice’s high-ranking position in the administration, she largely has stayed away from commenting on the current presidential race. She told The Forward that it would be “inappropriate and likely illegal” for her to do so in response to a question about presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s foreign policy credentials. She closed her speech by condemning anti-Semitism that has popped up across the globe.
“When Iran holds an abhorrent Holocaust cartoon contest, when violence and violent words lead Jews to take down mezuzahs in Europe. When more than half of college students say they have experienced anti-Semitism on campus, we must call out and confront that ancient hatred for what it is: an absolute outrage.”
Unlike Rice, past administration speakers at the conference were top names such as Kerry and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who has spoken at the conference multiple times. But the forum did include three mayors out of more than 300 from around the world who have signed a pledge to fight anti-Semitism.
One of those present was Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said that activism, like the fight against anti-Semitism, comes from the bottom up, and initiatives such as this one are most likely to happen in a city rather than at the national level.
“My job at its core is to make sure my community is safer, that it’s better and stronger. And if I can do that and my colleagues can do that, than what a difference we can make.”