As prepared for delivery by National Security Advisor Ambassador Robert O’Brien at the ZOA’s 2019 Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award Dinner on November 17, 2019
Well, thank you Mort for that very kind introduction and thank you all for inviting me to join you this evening. I bring you greetings from your very good friend, the 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.
I spoke with President Trump on the phone flying up here this afternoon; I spoke with his son in law Jared Kushner – they both wanted me to send you their very best, Mort, and to send their very best to the ZOA. You’re great friends of the president and he’s grateful for your support.
I also want to thank Miriam and Sheldon Adelson for their extraordinary service to our country, their incredible generosity, their exceptional devotion to Jewish Americans and to the cause of Israel; it’s a profound honor to receive an award bearing their names.
And let me congratulate this year’s recipient of the Bob Shillman Award for Outstanding Leadership, Governor Ron DeSantis – Governor, it’s great to be here with you tonight. The governor and I were just together with the President in Florida a couple weeks ago and he sends his best, along with of course Judge Jeanine Pirro – Judge, I can tell you you’re on TV at the White House regularly, so.
Congratulations to Dr. Shillman for being recognized this evening – he’s had an incredible record of service to this organization and to the cause.
And I’m honored to be here with Ambassador Danny Danon – Ambassador, I know how tough your job is over at Turtle Bay – I had the privilege of serving at the UN with two prior ZOA award recipients – John Bolton and Ric Grenell, back in 2005, 2006 – it was always a fight, but we always fought for the United States and we fought for our ally Israel. And we did so because the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable.
Americans have always understood the role and the noble cause of the Israeli people because we ourselves know what it means to be a nation of destiny and dream. Like perhaps no two other countries on earth, our nations strive constantly to fulfill the great moral ideals of our histories and to realize the hopes of our national foundings. For America, we seek to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; for Israel, the dream is Zionism – the dream of a Jewish state in the Jewish homeland. In both cases, we see our nations as havens for our people. Bound by this common outlook on the world and by the values that unite us, the United States and Israel have been close friends from the very beginning. Exactly 50 years ago this autumn, Prime Minister Golda Meir payed a visit to the United States. Standing on the south lawn of the White House, she reflected: the history of Israel, reborn, cannot be told without reference to the unwavering support and friendship shown by successive American governments and by the American people.
Prime Minister Meir went onto recall how President Truman had recognized Israel within minutes of Israel’s proclamation of statehood. And today, under President Donald Trump, our partnership is stronger than ever before.
So it’s a pleasure for me to be with you today, as someone who has long been a friend and an admirer of Israel. My wife is here with us tonight, Lo-Marie – she deserves the biggest round of applause, at least when it comes to the O’Briens – she visited the Holy Land with her mom and her church congregation when she was a high school student. I first travelled to Israel as a college student. Five years ago, our oldest daughter attended BYU-Jerusalem and it was there that she met her husband Carson, who was also studying at the Mt. Scopus campus. My family and I look forward to returning to Israel again; it’s an amazing country with incredible people.
Shortly before being asked to serve in my current position, I was in Israel in a previous capacity, as a Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. I was there to assist in the efforts to obtain the return of Israeli hostages in Gaza. Israel has the right to have the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Shaul Oron, our brave young soldiers killed in Gaza, over 5 years ago, returned to their families.
Now, when I was the hostage envoy, my job was to bring Americans home. But when the Goldin family came to see me in Washington, I asked Secretary Pompeo and President Trump for the authority to go help with that important mission; it was immediately granted. And when I was there, we learned that two other Israelis were being held –Ethiopian born Avraham Mengistu and Bedouin Israeli Hisham al-Sayed, both captured for simply crossing into Gaza. So the constant attacks on innocent Israelis from Gaza must end. Now, it’s my extraordinary pleasure to serve as the National Security Advisor to the best friend that Israel has ever had in the White House. It’s entirely safe to say that President Trump’s record of solidarity and support for our ally Israel is simply unparalleled.
More than two decades ago, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which urged that the American Embassy in Israel be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. From then on, every six months, American presidents of both parties signed waivers to prevent the U.S. recognition of Israel’s true capital. Despite campaign promises, they put off recognition.
President Trump came into office promoting a different approach to world affairs. He argued that peace is promoted not hindered by acknowledging plain facts and clear realities. The situation in the Middle East could never be improved as long as the United States maintained the polite fiction that Israel’s existence and sovereign rights were somehow up for negotiation. That is why two years ago this December, President Trump recognized the eternal capital of Israel. And just months later, we opened the American Embassy in Jerusalem.
Prior to the president’s recognition of Israel’s capital, voices throughout the media and around the world warned confidently that the move would be a grave mistake. It would cause untold destruction and would put Israel’s security in danger. Instead, just as President Trump predicted, the opposite has occurred.
We have seen increased cooperation and even partnership between Israel and its neighbors. Last year Prime Minister Netanyahu made a historic visit to Oman; Israel participated in the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi; and next year, Israel is slated to participate in the Dubai Expo. Incredibly, the prospect of non-aggression pacts between Israel and many of its Arab states is being openly discussed. This only happened because the United States, under President Trump’s leadership, took the right moral and unambiguous stand. Israel is a sovereign and independent nation; it is the home of the Jewish people; and it always will be.
Earlier this year, President Trump acknowledged another obvious reality by recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He defunded the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees, which has spent billions of US Dollars and hasn’t moved the needle one inch towards peace. After years of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, spending, and staffed and made up – comprised of member states with the most egregious record on human rights in the world – after years of them investigating Israel, and not acknowledging their own violations of human rights, President Trump withdrew the United States from that corrupt organization.
After the last Administration signed a deeply flawed Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s aggression in the Middle East only increased. To stop the regime from ever obtaining the nuclear weapon and to combat its worldwide campaign of terror and destruction, last year President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.
The President’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran has changed the calculus for curbing Iran’s behavior for the first time since the Iranian Revolution. We’ve imposed the toughest ever sanctions on the regime, and now, according to the financial times, Iran’s economy is collapsing under the weight of American sanctions. We designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as what it is; a foreign terrorist organization. Now the IRGC is slashing salaries in support for Iran’s proxies across the region and these sinister forces are now saying the golden days are over and they’ll never come back.
President Trump also ended Iranian oil waivers in a campaign to drive Iran’s oil exports to zero. President Trump’s bold campaign of sanctions and diplomatic pressure is achieving results. The month before the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal Iran was exporting over 22.5 million barrels of crude oil a day. Today exports have plunged to less than 500,000 barrels per day; about an 85% decrease.
Iranian inflation is at 35%. Last month International Monetary Fund reported that Iran’s economy would contract by 9% this year. That means Iran went from double-digit growth under the heyday of the JCPOA to decline and depression in just one year, thanks to President Trump and our sanctions. Now I want to be clear as President Trump has said many times and Secretary Pompeo has said: our concern is not with the Iranian people; our concern is with the revolutionary regime that keeps them in poverty and keeps them from progressing while they line their own pockets and spread conflict abroad.
And this week and tonight the Iranian people have started to protest endemic corruption and mismanagement that’s been foisted on them by the regime. Keep the Iranian people in their prayers as they rise up against these revolutionary clerics that have kept them in chains for so long.
Now President Trump has made clear to Iran and to the American people that America does not seek endless confrontation. We seek the end of Iran’s nuclear program; the end of its ballistic missile program; the end of its destabilization in the region; and the end of its support for terrorism.
We want our American hostages Siamak and Baquer Namazi, Xiyue Wang and long-suffering Bob Levinson returned home to their families. And of course, we seek the end of Iran’s relentless aggression towards the state of Israel.
Now as Iran’s economic situation has become dire, the regime has returned to its old tactic of attempted nuclear blackmail. The disastrous nuclear deal allowed the regime to keep centrifuges running in the Fordow bunker for so-called research purposes. Two weeks ago, Iran began injecting uranium gas into those previously empty centrifuges. The regime also announced that it doubled its number of advanced centrifuges, four years before they were allowed to under the deal. This summer Iran surpassed the 300 kilogram nuclear limit for low-grade enriched uranium set in the deal.
President Trump has been very clear about our policy; the United States will never allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. And we will never allow Iran to threaten our ally Israel with destruction and annihilation.
America also stands with Israel and the Israeli people as they combat the ongoing threat of missile attacks on their homes, businesses, schools, synagogues, and communities. The United States supports Israel’s absolute right to self-defense. Together, the United States and Israel represent a great hope for the world; where two peoples of strong faith, of great patriotism, fiercely committed to our national sovereignty and our independence, and the united values of democracy, human dignity, and individual liberty that bind us together as friends and allies.
At a time when freedom is undergoing threat around the world, our alliance is more than a bulwark of our security; it is a testament to the resolve of free nations to do what is necessary to preserve all that we hold dear.
Thank you again for inviting me tonight and for honoring me with this award. Thank you for everything that you’re doing to support the people of the United States and Israel. God bless Israel. God bless all of you. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you.