Transcript: Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay

Sunday March 4, 2018

Good evening. Howard, I salute your leadership of AIPAC. Thank you. Lillian, thank you for your many years of service to the U.S.-Israel relationship. And Mort, I saw that you took over this morning due to term limits. Well, if only it was so easy in Israel.

I wish you great success and am excited to work with you. Friends, living freely in our homeland is a dream that has sustained the Jewish people for thousands of years. It is Israel that in 1964 led my parents, Moshe and Sara, to leave their home in Casablanca, Morocco. They picked up their five children and traveled to the Holy City of Jerusalem where two of my sisters and I were born.

With this journey to Jerusalem, my parents achieved the Zionist dream. You know, life was not so easy for us. All 10 of us lived in a tiny crowded cabin made of asbestos. At the time, I didn't tell my friends that I lived in a cabin, because I was ashamed.

My mother worked long hours at the local daycare, my father was a field technician for Bezeq, Israel's telecom company. For 25 years, he installed and fixed phone lines throughout Jerusalem for our Arabs and Jews alike. My parents loved their country and they taught us to appreciate Israel, to love Israel, to be thankful that we had and still have a strong Jewish state in our homeland.

And more than that, that we have the privilege of living in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the heart and soul of the Jewish people. And we are thankful to President Trump for recognizing Jerusalem as our internal capital.

I'm proud to be part of the Zionist dream serving my country as a combat intelligence officer in Lebanon, as an economist in the Ministry of Finance and with hard work and some luck, by age 40, becoming the CEO of the very company my father was never promoted at for 25 years.

Members of AIPAC, I join you today as the head of Israel's Labor party and its candidate for prime minister. Our main agenda addresses security, peace and an economy that serves all of the citizens.

Regarding security, let me be clear, we will never compromise on the security of our country. We must have an aggressive security policy. We will not allow any regime that calls for the destruction of our country, the ability to act on its word.

We will not allow Iran to have nuclear capabilities. We will not allow Hezbollah to attack the people of northern Israel just as we will not allow Hamas to harm the people of southern Israel. Even with peace, Israel must forever have the most powerful military in the region in the air, in the sea, on land and online.

And a core foundation of our security is the alliance with you, the United States of America. This is, of course, led by our shared values. It is led by a compassion and concern for Israel in every White House since 1948. And it is led by the incredible bipartisan voice for Israel in Congress, we must keep the support for Israel bipartisan.

This is a strategic asset for Israel's security and your work here is more important today than ever before. Friends, for generations, we have prayed for peace by saying every day, "Oseh shalom bimromav," and despite the challenges, we must not give up on this dream. We must make this dream a reality. We must separate ourselves from the Palestinians.

See, my parents, they left a Muslim-majority country to be part of a Jewish-majority country and I will honor the difficult path they took. I will honor their dream by working for a safe, secure democratic Israel alongside a demilitarized state for the Palestinian people.

Members of AIPAC, if there is one thing my business experience has taught me about negotiations, it is that success depends on trust. We must start by rebuilding trust and there are steps each side must take. First, the Palestinian incitement must end immediately – because it has anti-Semitic parts, because it leads to terror attacks and because it moves the Israeli public away from peace.

And part of ending the incitement is ending the incentives. The Palestinian Authority must stop paying their terrorists. On our side, we must stop building these caravans on hilltops and glorifying these remote settlements because they do not provide any security value to Israel.

We must double-down on economic cooperation by taking steps to improve the Palestinian economy. I believe that peace will insure the long-term security of Israel and with this peace, Israel will not just be a part of the Middle East, but will lead the Middle East.

Friends, with vision, courage and leadership – these practical steps can create trust and ignite hope in the region and I hope that President Trump's plan starts by building this trust. Members of AIPAC, when it comes to our economy, for thousands of years, we, the Jewish people, acted on the principle of "Kol yisrael arevim zeh lazeh."

We cared for one another, we created communities and provided for those of us most in need. Now that we have our own state, we must continue that tradition. We are proud of strong and growing economy and still one out of every three children in Israel lives in poverty.

I've been one child – that one child – and as prime minister, I will fight poverty with the same iron fist that I will fight our greatest enemies. A just and fair economy is also an economy clean of corruption.

As a people, as a nation, we are better than some of the news coming out of Israel today. Friends, our strong economy is based on the greatest, smartest, most innovative people of any country. Leaders travel to Israel not for photo ops with politicians, but to meet our high tech and our great culture and security experts.

More than that, we have the Jewish communities around the world, all of them are brothers and sisters, ultra-Orthodox or Orthodox, conservative or reform, affiliated or unaffiliated, you are all our brothers and sisters. And the Kotel belongs to all of us equally.

Members of AIPAC, the best friends of Israel are the people in this room here today. I admire your commitment to Israel, I admire your strong belief in the Zionist dream and I admire your love for your own country, America. On behalf of all Israelis, including the loud and vocal position that I lead, thank you for your support.

Keep believing in the miracle that we call Israel and know that I will keep fighting for the Israel we all love – a secure state, a Jewish state, a democratic state, a unified state, a peace-seeking state where every child has an equal opportunity.

Thank you, AIPAC. Thank you very much.

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