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Netanyahu: 'We Appreciate' No Cuts to Israel in Trump's Lean Budget Request

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is projected on a screen as he speaks to attendees of the AIPAC Policy Conference via satellite from Israel on March 27, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference this morning that President Trump’s budget proposal “is an investment in our common security and in our common future” as it “leaves military aid to Israel fully funded, even as the fiscal belt is pulled tighter — and we appreciate that.”

Netanyahu addressed the conference at the Washington Convention Center via video link from Jerusalem, quipping that the conference’s 18,000 attendees made him “worry that the registration line waiting would be too long.”

“For the security of both Israel and the United States, we must ensure that the forces of militant Islam are defeated. We won’t let them drag humanity away from the promise of a bright future, to the misery of a dark past,” he said. “I’m confident that the United States and Israel will stand together, shoulder to shoulder to ensure that light triumphs over darkness and hope triumphs over despair.”

The prime minister reiterated that “preventing Iran from ever — from ever developing nuclear weapons… will always be our policy.”

He also embraced “building alliances with moderates in the region, those moderates who seek to build a better future and embrace modernity and peace.”

“In this battle between modernity and medievalism, more and more countries in the region and outside the region, around the world, realize that Israel is on their side. Where terrorism threatens innocent people, Israel is there with unmatched intelligence and counter-terrorism capabilities. When people are suffering from hunger and thirst, as in Africa, Israel is there with technologies that help feed the world’s hungry and literally create water out of thin air,” Netanyahu said.

“Where hackers threaten the critical networks of our lives, our banks, our transportation and power plants, Israel is there with incredible cyber capabilities to help protect all of us. Where natural disasters strike around the world, Israel is there too with rescue and medical services second to none.”

Israel, he added, “is fast becoming a global technological power” driven by “the same ingenuity and determination that has built our strong army, our robust economy, our resilient society.”

Netanyahu said he sees early actions to back up Trump’s stated support for Israel, including the appointment of Nikki Haley to the United Nations and the lack of Israel-related budget cuts.

“We confront the same enemies and we defend the same values: our open societies, our respect for the rule of law, and the many freedoms we rightly cherish,” he said. “These are the things that bring Americans and Israelis together. And so does the pursuit of peace.”

Trump has stressed that forging a Mideast peace deal, whether a one-state solution or two-state solution, is a priority for his administration. Earlier this month, the president invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the White House on an unspecified date.

Netanyahu emphasized that Israel teaches “peace to our children and it’s time the Palestinian Authority do the same.”

“It must stop teaching hatred in its schools. It must stop paying terrorists. It must stop denying our legitimacy and our history. It must, above all, one and for all recognize the Jewish state,” he continued.

“Israel is committed to working with President Trump to advance peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbors. I believe that the common dangers faced by Israel and many of our Arab neighbors now offer a rare opportunity to build bridges towards a better future, a future more prosperous, more secure, more peaceful. And to achieve that future, Israel will stand ever vigilant, never compromising on our security, always ready to defend ourselves.”

Netanyahu’s address followed a speech to the AIPAC activists by opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who emphasized his common ground with the prime minister when it comes to stopping Iran.

Herzog said he’d been trying to impress upon world leaders the dangers posed by the Islamic Republic — “this hungry lion is not out yet” — both in terms of nuclear development and its sponsorship of terrorism. But, he said, “there’s no daylight…no daylight at all” between him and Netanyahu on the subject.

“We have to be extremely cautious and identify the fact that Iran can break out to a nuclear weapon within 10 years. We have a window of opportunity to deal with it,” he said. “Iran spreads terror all over the region. It radicalizes the regimes, it wants to undermine, it works in a fork-like manner with Hezbollah in the north and Hamas in the south. This is a strategic challenge, the main one — the main strategic challenge.”

On a peace deal, Herzog said “none of us is forgetting our commitment to the great land of Israel or how deep it runs within us.”

“But at the given moment, we will have to take that decision to see how we separate from the Palestinians and make sure that there will be an unequivocal presence of the Jewish homeland of the nation- state of the Jewish people eternally,” he said, adding that Netanyahu “backed off and caved” to “a small minority of extreme movements of politicians.”

“We have to speak. We have to present a vision of hope to both peoples, to their young generations, to our children. And we can do it. We need simply to take bold steps. We need to be leaders. That’s what we are elected for. And we need to get the support of the United States and the White House. And this president, after meeting with Jason Greenblatt, his special envoy to the Middle — Middle East, I’m impressed that President Trump is heavily committed towards reaching peace between Israel and the Arabs.”