Colorado Democratic officials address AIPAC
The Colorado Statesman
Colorado Democratic officials addressed the recent American Israel Public Affairs Annual Colorado event on April 6. AIPAC is the only American organization whose principal mission is to lobby the U.S. government about legislation that strengthens the relationship between the U.S. and Israel.
Below is a lightly edited transcript of the Democratic members of the congressional delegation as well as the remarks of the Governor.
Gov. John Hickenlooper visited Israel last year for the first time, accompanying businessman Larry Mizel and attorney and national AIPAC member Norm Brownstein in a private tour of the country. Hickenlooper said it was the most moving trip of his life.
Gov. John Hickenlooper
I think the ties between Colorado and Israel are especially strong and numerous. Just in the recent past we hosted the Israel Colorado Water Summit of 2011 and I was in Israel almost exactly a year ago today… You know Passover is largely about remembering. Now I want to go back to Israel just so I can reminisce about what was the most moving – the greatest trip of my life. I mean, if you’re going to go back to Israel for your first time, it is not a bad thing to go with Norm Brownstein and Larry Mizel and have private meetings with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Shimon Peres. We got to see the historical sites, we went up on a helicopter up to the Golan Heights and we met with Victor Calamities, who said he was the tank commander in 1973 when the tanks came from Syria… He’s driving his tank and he had to shoot to destroy three other tanks in the space of 98 seconds. That is how much time he had before they were pivoted and destroyed him and they actually successfully defended, I think it was 42 tanks, there were originally just three Israeli tanks and I think six more came. To hear that story first-hand is amazing.
So also, where the new natural gas resources are off shore for Israel is going to change the way Israel is forever in a vast and positive way. It’s interesting that the people, the organization, the company that founded that gas is Noble Energy, which is one of the largest gas companies that operate in Colorado, and we’re at the table in Kiev when we negotiated between the environmental committee and the old gas committee, but we got methane regulations, it was Noble Energy that played a significant role.
It’s funny how closely Israel and Colorado are. Israel knows so much and has helped teach us so much — our water conservation, commerce, educational reform, why when we were over there, I couldn’t get enough of some of the stuff they’ve been doing.
I want to just give special thanks to AIPAC for building bipartisan support. Both parties were making sure that we have strong Israel-U.S. relationships. We are thousands of miles apart but we’re not that different. We’ve got shared values and shared interests in addition to all the ties and friendships we found that Israel is second only to the United States in the number of start-ups and we, Colorado, if you look at the top communities for start-ups, four of the top ten start-up communities in the country are in Colorado. And, everywhere I went when I was in Israel and talking to these entrepreneurs, that could have been Colorado, the same fire that was lighting in their bellies. We counted over 80 companies that do business with Israel and the next four years [we’ll] double that, make sure we have a 160. Regarding our exports, double digit growth each year and that commerce is just going to increase the avenues by which we exchange ideas and experts about water or forestry… A strong relationship with Israel provides so many opportunities for this exchange and information, we recognize development for better business opportunities for both Coloradans and Israelis. We are committed and we will continue to be committed for a strong friendship and a lasting partnership with Israel.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and AIPAC national board member Norm Brownstein share a few moments before the program begins on April 6.
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall
You all know that we live in a complex and dangerous world. And you know that the threats facing Israel manifest themselves all too often in terrorist attacks against civilians and innocents. As a member of the Senate, I know those threats very well. Sometimes I wish I didn’t know those threats as well as I do. But as a member of the Senate Armed Services committee, I work with our military every single day in our ongoing efforts to neutralize those threats and maybe I can even say destroy those threats. In 2012 I was proud to support the U.S.-Israel Security and Cooperation act. And that bill to this day is strengthening Israel’s qualitative military edge and provides increased support of the development of joint missile defense systems while deepening our defense and security cooperation with Israel. And that bill continues to evade dividends.
Last year I became the chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee, which is responsible for budget and oversight of some of our most important missile defense systems and major defense systems and programs. And one of my first acts as chairman, I added $150 billion to the budget for cooperative Israeli missile defense programs. And I visited an iron dome barrier and I can tell you that iron dome works and it saves lives. I’m going to keep using my chairmanship to make sure that those programs hold strong. We’re going to continue robust funding for iron dome, for the arrow missile system that defend against rockets and regional missile threats. And as long as I’m the chair of that subcommittee, Israel will not be held hostage to terrorist, rocket and missile attacks period.
On a strategic scale, we must take every action necessary to prevent Iran from possessing a nuclear weapon. Starkly put, the threat to peace to civilians presented by a nuclear armed Iran is simply unacceptable. As the negotiations between the Islamic and Iranian government move forward, I will continue to insist that we mistrust and verify the Rohani government’s commitments at every turn. We can hope for diplomatic solution, but we must be realistic. We must keep all options on the table in the event the talks fail. I do believe the weight of the sanctions has brought the Iranians to the table and that’s why I co-sponsored the Iran sanctions accountability and human rights act in 2011 and the Graham-Menendez resolution in 2013 supporting the full limitation of U.S. and international sanctions on Iran…
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall pledged to continue to work on “a tough but smart national security strategy for as long as I’m privileged to serve as United States Senator. And that strategy absolutely includes steadfast continued economic military and diplomatic support for Israel and her citizens. No matter how you look at it, it’s simply the right thing to do,” Udall said on April 6.
And now, we should be ready — we should be ready to slam new, even harsher economic penalties on the regime if they fail to adhere to their commitments. And I will say again, we must keep all additional options on that table should Iraq continue down a dangerous and irreversible path. A strong alliance between Israel and the United States not only serves our best interests but it also serves the interests and security of the world.
Israel’s been described as a beautiful home in a bad neighborhood. We will protect that home against all who would threaten it. As we strive for peace, we must continue to demonstrate strength, commitment and a united front with our allies and international partners. And that’s why this week I signed on as a co-sponsor of Senator Boxer’s U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. This bill expands U.S.-Israel cooperation and designates Israel as a major strategic partner.
I promise to you going forward I will continue to work on a tough but smart national security strategy for as long as I’m privileged to serve as United States Senator. And that strategy absolutely includes steadfast continued economic military and diplomatic support for Israel and her citizens. No matter how you look at it, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver and dean of Colorado’s congressional delegation, addressed the AIPAC meeting before heading off to her church where she is a member of the choir.
U.S. REP. DIANA DEGETTE
There’s an old habit that the very best foreign policy should be where partisanship ends at the water’s edge. And we all really feel that way in this delegation. We also have a saying within our congressional delegation that we try to work together in a bipartisan way on issues that affect Colorado. And we try very hard for that. I going to amend that to say we work very hard together on issues that affect Colorado and Israel. I just want to give you three examples of legislation that this delegation has supported strongly in a bipartisan way. First of all the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013, which significantly tightened sanctions on Iran to target its nuclear program. This bill had 378 co-sponsors and it passed with every single member of our delegation voting yes. The United States and Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014, which reaffirms and strengthens our military, economic and energy alliance with Israel is so important. This passed the House on March 5 just last month — all of our delegation voted yes. And finally, the Israel Qualitative Military Edge Enhancement act, which reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge. This passed the House on December 12 with every single one of us voting yes. I think we don’t really need to say much more about how strong all of our commitment is to Israel.
Larry Mizel, Colorado board member of AIPAC, hosted the April 6 event at which former Rocky Mountain News editor Clifford May spoke to several hundred guests. Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation also shared their views on America’s relationship with Israel.