Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center
November 13, 2007
Address to Delegates at the United Jewish Communities (UJC) General Assembly
Thank you. Thank you very much for that warm welcome and thank you to Joe Kanfer for the kind introduction and for the
leadership that he is providing to the United Jewish Communities. I would also like to thank my friend, Israeli
Ambassador Salai Meridor, who is here today, and he is doing great work for his country. Thank you, Salai. (Applause.)
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I am really pleased to join you here in Nashville, Tennessee. I am honored
to have this opportunity to address this year's General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities. I'm told that the
theme for your General Assembly this year is "One People, One Destiny." And I know that you are turning those words into
compassionate action in so many places, nowhere more importantly than here in the United States.
I want to thank the United Jewish Communities for the outstanding and ongoing contribution to American life that you
make. I want you to know that I know a little bit personally about some of the work that is done in various cities here
in the United States. I had a personal experience with some of the work concerning Soviet Jewry in the '70s. In fact, I
had just come back as a graduate student from the Soviet Union, where I'd been working on my Russian language, and I
went back home to Denver and to the University of Denver. And my mother, who was a schoolteacher in Denver, said, you
know, Condoleezza, I have a little girl in my class and she came with a sign and it said, "I don't speak English." And
so my mother said, well, what is it that she does speak? And they said she speaks Russian. And it was the Jewish
community that had taken in this family from the Soviet Union and they were giving training to the parents and training
to the family so that they could make a new life in the United States. And I worked with that community in helping
Russian émigrés to relocate here in the United States, using my fresh Russian. (Applause.)
Now, I suspect that Alla (ph), which was her name, is now well into her 30s. I suspect, too, that her family is very
well established here in the United States. And it is really in large part thanks to the great work of communities like
yours that stories like hers exist. But it is also thanks to your hard work that we were able to do so much in the hard
days of the Soviet Union to make it possible for Soviet Jews to emigrate. And thank God that we no longer have a Soviet
Union, though we certainly still have work to do around the world to make certain that anti-Semitism is stamped out
completely and thoroughly. (Applause.)
I know therefore that from the hamlets of Ethiopia to the cities of the former Soviet Union, wherever Jewish people are
weak or weary, wherever they are hurting or hungry, wherever sickness or persecution has brought them to their knees,
United Jewish Communities are there as one people with one destiny to help your brothers and your sisters get back on
Your communities are doing all of this and more, for you also believe, as I do, that despite differences of religion and
race, class and culture, all human beings are essentially one -- all born free, all equal in dignity, all deserving of
justice and all bearing the mark of a divine maker.
This conviction leads you to summon the collective goodwill of your community and to serve our fellow human beings in
need. It is this conviction that led Jewish communities across our country to care and comfort our fellow citizens who
lost everything in Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Rita. And it is your conviction that all human beings are one people
with one destiny that leads you now to join with men and women of conscience everywhere to answer one of humanity's
great moral callings, to ease the suffering and end the violence in Darfur. (Applause.)
I believe deeply, as you do, that no one person, no one community and no one nation acting alone can fulfill the great
global missions of our time: defeating terrorism and ending dire poverty and stopping climate change and eradicating
global pandemics; and building a world of peace and opportunity and freedom for all. To meet these great goals, we must
unite together and we must work together. As you have said, one people with one destiny.
An issue of conscience that does stir us all is the search for peace in the Middle East. As you know, I was just in the
Middle East, and whenever I visit Israel I am reminded of the awesome living achievement that is the Jewish state.
(Applause.) I look out upon a nation that has made the desert bloom. I think of how a people with ancient traditions
have built a prosperous, modern democracy, and how inspiring that could be for the rest of the Middle East. I see on the
side of the road the aging shells of Israeli tanks and I think of the long line of Israeli patriots who gave their lives
so that Israel could survive.
But most of all, ladies and gentlemen, whenever I visit Israel, I am reminded of how precious the idea of Israel is and
how essential it is to defend it. (Applause.)
I want to affirm my own personal commitment to Israel's security and I want you to know how honored I am to serve a
President for whom the enduring U.S. commitment to Israel's security is unquestionable and unshakable. (Applause.)
When Israel was besieged by terrorism, it was the United States that insisted that Israel had the same right as every
nation on earth, the right to defend itself. (Applause.) When people used to say -- and we now forget that people used
to say it -- one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter, it was the United States that said, no, the
intentional murder of innocent people is wrong anywhere, anytime, always, period. (Applause.) And when violent
extremists proclaimed their desire to "wipe Israel off the map," it was the United States that responded with a $30
billion security package to ensure that no one will threaten our ally in Israel.
Peace between Israelis and Palestinians is in the strategic interest of the United States. Yet, we will defend against
any action, as we always have, that would compromise Israel's security. I've made that commitment to the Israeli people
and now I make that commitment to you. (Applause.)
America's unwavering commitment to Israel's security now and over the past several years has given Israel the confidence
to work with us and with responsible Palestinians as well as with our friends in the Middle East to begin creating real
conditions for peace, conditions that were not there just a few years ago when President Bush took office.
Just think back to 2001. Despite the extraordinary efforts of the Clinton Administration, peace negotiations had
collapsed. The violence between Palestinians and Israelis was almost daily. Israelis feared that every bus ride, every
night out, could be another Passover massacre. The underlying factors that had made peace elusive since 1967 were nearly
unchanged in 2001: Israel occupied the future Palestine and the Palestinian leadership was complicit in terror.
This led the President to try a different approach. The traditional idea had focused largely on negotiating the contours
of a Palestinian state, its borders, along with solutions to questions of refugees and Jerusalem -- all essential for
peace, but I would submit to you not sufficient for peace.
What also needed to be addressed was the character of the Palestinian state. Would it fight terrorism? Would it govern
justly? Would it create opportunity for its people? In our view, the security of the democratic Jewish state required
the creation of a responsible Palestinian state. (Applause.)
So the President laid out a new vision: two democratic states living side by side in peace and security. And we said
that the fulfillment of this vision would require hard work on the ground. Palestinians would have to build the
institutions of a democratic state and Israel would have to do its part to ease the daily trials of occupation for the
Some think that this focus on democracy backfired with the election of Hamas. I disagree with that conclusion. Hamas
always had power. What it never had was responsibility for power. And that is what democracy gave Hamas: a fundamental
choice. You can be a political party or a terrorist group, but you cannot be both. The leaders of Hamas have made their
choice. They have chosen violence. And the international community has remained united, isolating Hamas until it is
ready to choose peace. (Applause.)
The violent extremism of Hamas stands in contrast to the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, the legitimately elected president
of all Palestinians who won a clear mandate to seek peace with Israel. President Abbas and his government are working to
overcome a long, crippling legacy of misrule and they must fully carry out their responsibility to fight terrorism and
enforce the law among all Palestinians. Yet President Abbas is demonstrating that he is a partner for peace and he is
working to clarify the fundamental choice for his people, between the real benefits that peace and reform can bring and
the prolonged suffering that violence and extremism guarantee.
The emergence of responsible Palestinian leaders has given Israel the confidence to reach out to them in partnership.
During my last trip to Israel, Prime Minister Olmert made a significant and path-breaking speech. He said that Israel
now has a true partner for peace in President Abbas. He said that there is now a real opportunity to make progress
toward the vision of two states. And he said that now is the time for Israel to begin, in his words, vigorous,
continuing, and ongoing negotiations for peace with the Palestinians. Prime Minister Olmert is now embracing the legacy
of Israeli leaders like Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon, who were strong in Israel's defense and equally strong in their
quest for peace.
Now I do not deny that the present moment is challenging and complicated, but when has the Middle East ever been
unchallenging or uncomplicated? The fact is conditions between Israelis and Palestinians are now fundamentally different
and, frankly, better than they were a few years ago. And we now have a real opportunity to seek peace. Just consider,
most Israelis now believe that a responsible Palestinian state is in the national interest of Israel and that true
security will require an end to the occupation that began in 1967. Most Palestinians now believe that Israel will always
be their neighbor and that no Palestinian state is going to be born through violence.
And among most Arab states, as they recently made clear in reaffirming the Arab League Peace Initiative, the question
now is not whether Israel will exist, but on what terms to make peace with Israel. Indeed, the threat of violent
extremism has created a new strategic alignment in the Middle East. Responsible states now see that they share a common
interest in combating a common threat and that a responsible Palestinian state can be a bulwark against that threat.
I believe that most Palestinians and most Arab states are ready to end the conflict. I believe that most Israelis are
ready to leave most of the -- nearly all of the West Bank, just as they were ready to leave Gaza, for the sake of peace.
I believe that we have two democratic leaders in Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, who know that the best way
to serve their people is to build a basis for peace. And I believe that the international community is now more
constructively engaged than before, which we see in Prime Minister Tony Blair's support as Quartet Special Envoy as
Palestinians strive to build the capable institutions of a responsible state.
Now the opportunity before us does not obviate the need for hard, even unprecedented choices by all parties involved.
Israelis and Palestinians alike need to recognize that peace will require difficult, painful sacrifices to some of their
longest-held aspirations. The same is true of responsible Arab states. If our Arab friends of long standing truly desire
peace, then they need to demonstrate to their people and to the world that they believe that Israel has a permanent home
in the Middle East. (Applause.)
The time has come to seize that opportunity and that is why we intend to hold a serious and substantive meeting in
Annapolis. Our current course is not meant to replace the roadmap, nor to supplant direct negotiations between the
parties, but to take this new opportunity and to pursue peace and to protect ourselves against those with far darker
designs. We can succeed and we must succeed. Failure is simply not an option. In Hamas' coup in Gaza, in Hezbollah's war
in Lebanon and in the rise of an aggressive Iranian regime, we see that violent extremism is evolving in new and
dangerous ways. Ways that make it a threat not only to the people of one nation or one race or one religion, but to
everyone in the Middle East who seeks peace and a life of modernity with dignity.
Across the region, responsible leaders and citizens are under attack. They are being assassinated in Lebanon. They are
being pressured in the Palestinian territories by the violent actions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They are being
murdered in Iraq. And increasingly, the Government of Iran is putting itself at the head of this violent extremism
rising. This is deeply unfortunate because America has great respect for the Iranian people, for their culture and their
accomplishments. And we believe that the Iranian Government's actions do not fully reflect the priorities of its
citizens. It is a tragedy that the Iranian Government by confronting and threatening the international community is only
increasing the isolation of the Iranian people who desire and deserve to engage with the world. It is a tragedy that the
Iranian Government spends millions and millions of dollars to train and arm terrorists and to pursue nuclear
capabilities while many Iranians, especially young Iranians, are struggling to find jobs, to buy homes, to put gas in
their cars and to afford medical care. And it is a real tragedy, indeed, that the great Iranian people are now led by a
man who threatens the Jewish people with murder and who denies that perhaps the worst crime in history ever happened.
So then, what is the aim of our policy toward Iran? The United States is committed to a diplomatic solution with Iran.
But for diplomacy to succeed, we must recognize that it must be backed by pressure. All must know that the President
never takes his options off the table. So we've developed a strategy toward Iran with two paths. A path of incentives --
if Iran chooses to cooperate with the international community and a path of increasing serious consequences and
deepening isolation for Iran if the Iranian Government chooses to confront the international community.
The United States has said that Iran has a right to civil nuclear energy. I personally have said that if Iran fulfills
its own international obligation to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities, then I will join our Security
Council partners, plus Germany and meet with my Iranian counterpart any time, anywhere to discuss any issue. Yet, the
Iranian Government continues to spurn our offer for negotiations and continues instead to confront the international
community, supporting terrorism and extremism, destabilizing the Middle East, pursuing a nuclear capability and
threatening our allies, especially Israel. Therefore, the United States will continue to protect our friends, our
interests and our citizens wherever Iran is threatening them, especially in Iraq. And until Iran is ready to cooperate
with the international community, the United States will continue to rally responsible nations everywhere to confront
the dangerous policies of the dangerous Iranian Government. (Applause.)
We have already mobilized the UN Security Council to pass two Chapter 7 sanctions resolutions against Iran and we're
working on a third. At the same time, the United States is taking actions of its own. We recently sanctioned the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for weapons proliferation. We sanctioned Iran's Qods Force for its support for
terrorism. And we sanctioned three of Iran's state-owned banks, including Bank Melli, because using the international
financial system to bankroll terror and proliferation is not and can never be business as usual. (Applause.)
These sanctions helped to provide the teeth that our diplomacy needs to succeed. The international community,
responsible states, must simply face up to the following reality. The international community must not allow a state to
develop a nuclear capability when its leader openly threatens to wipe a fellow member of the United Nations off the map.
(Applause.) How can the idea of an international community have any meaning at all if we fail this test on Iran? The
thought of an Iran with nuclear weapons is unacceptable to the United States and it must be unacceptable to the
international community as well. (Applause.)
So, ladies and gentlemen, what is at stake is nothing less than the future of the Middle East. Violent extremists with
the Government of Iran increasingly in the lead are doing everything in their power to impose their fear, their
resentments, and their hate-filled ideologies on the people of the Middle East. And few people are being more zealously
preyed upon by these extremists than the young. This makes the two-state solution more urgent than ever. The
Palestinians made a realistic prospect of statehood to arrest their slide into despair, for as we read in Proverbs:
Where this is no vision, the people perish. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my fear that if Palestinian reformists
cannot deliver on their people's hope of an independent state, then the moderate center could collapse and the next
generation of Palestinians could become lost souls of unbridled extremism. Yes this is a trying time -- there's no doubt
about it. It's not a time for half measures. It is a time for responsible leaders, Israelis and Palestinians, Americans
and Arabs to make the difficult decisions that peace requires to make them courageously and to make them confidently.
Ariel Sharon once told me a story. It was just before the disengagement from Gaza. He told me that he went out to talk
with Israeli settlers because he, of course, had been the father of the settlement movement. He went to one family and
he explained to them why it was important to share the land. And this one man, the head of the family, said, "Let me
show you something." And he showed Sharon the mezuzah above his house and he said, "You, Prime Minister, personally put
that above our house. You personally told us that this was good for Israel to settle here. And now you tell us that we
have to leave for the good of Israel." Sharon was deeply pained by that. I could see it in the way that he told me the
story. But that's what great leaders do. They make hard decisions confidently for the sake of peace. Israelis have
waited too long for the security that will come living side by side with a peaceful and democratic neighbor.
Palestinians have waited too long for the dignity that will come with an independent state. We've all waited an awfully
long time for peace. We should wait no longer. So let us move confidently forward to the future. Let us realize our
shared goal of two democratic states living side by side in peace and security and let us safeguard for all times what
David Ben-Gurion called: The legacy of a small nation which has endured great suffering and tribulations, but which is
nevertheless great and eternal in spirit, vision, faith and virtue. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Released on November 13, 2007