Deputy National Security Advisor, National Security Council
American Jewish Committee's 98th Annual Dinner
May 6, 2004
I am pleased to be here tonight. Thank you, Harold, for a most kind introduction. As many of you know, this is Harold Tanner's last day after three years at the helm of this organization. His leadership has been nothing short of superb.
I want to say a word about the organization in whose honor we meet tonight. The American Jewish Committee has been doing the good work of education and advocacy for many years now -- and for the best of objectives: The advance of pluralism, the elimination of bigotry, the promotion of human rights around the world, and the encouragement of enlightened understanding between peoples.
Your work has never been more relevant. Today the world is engaged in a great struggle between the forces of tolerance, freedom, and the rule of law, and the forces of hatred, oppression, and the rule of terror. And the heart of this struggle is in the Middle East. This new reality drives America's Greater Middle East policy, which is predicated on a clear principle: That the advance of freedom and democracy leads to peace and prosperity for all.
Let me quote our President: "As long as [the Middle East] is a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce men and movements that threaten the safety of Americans and our friends. We seek the advance of democracy for the most practical of reasons: Because democracies do not support terrorists or threaten the world with weapons of mass murder."
We stand on the side of tolerance, freedom, and the rule of law. And in two countries, our effort to advance these great principles is being tested. But we are making progress. Again, let me quote President Bush: "The nation of Afghanistan was once the primary training ground of al Qaeda, and the home of a barbaric regime called the Taliban. It now has a new constitution that guarantees free elections and full participation by women. The nation of Iraq was for decades an ally of terror ruled by the cruelty and caprice of one man. In March the Iraqi Governing Council signed a document that protects the rights of the Iraqi people, offers a timetable for elections, and paves the way for a permanent constitution." On June 30th, the Iraqi people will exercise sovereignty over their own affairs for the first time in decades.
The President's forward strategy of freedom also applies to the Arab-Israeli conflict. We seek a viable, independent state for the Palestinian people. And we seek security and recognition for the state of Israel, which has lived in the shadow of random death for too long.
The Palestinian state we seek must be based on the core principles of tolerance, freedom, and the rule of law. As President Bush has said, "Peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, who tolerate and profit from corruption, and who maintain their ties to terrorist groups."
Last month Prime Minister Sharon briefed President Bush on his decision to remove certain military installations and settlements from Gaza, and certain others from the West Bank. This presents an historic opportunity for the Palestinian people to build a modern economy, create the institutions and habits of liberty, and turn from the terror and violence that can only impede their aspirations for a better life. We can help. But the Palestinians must choose to walk the path of freedom and build a peaceful future.
The work of this organization is consistent with the President's vision of a free and peaceful greater Middle East. On his behalf, let me offer congratulations on the opening of your Transatlantic Institute in Brussels. Its goal -- to foster greater understanding between the United States, Europe, and Jews the world over -- promises to bridge many gaps of understanding in pursuit of that vision.
On this, your 98th annual dinner, I offer you congratulations and gratitude for the good work you have performed, and for the good work you will yet perform in the cause of peace, understanding, and human rights.