21:08 , 06.02.08


Pro-Israel Lobby
Photo: Reuters 'Nuclear Iran existential threat to Israel.' McCain at AIPAC conference Photo: Reuters
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McCain to AIPAC: I'm committed to making certain Israel maintains military edge

'When we join in saying never again, that is not a wish, a request or a plea to the enemies of Israel, but a promise that the United States and Israel will honor against any enemy,' Arizona senator tells pro-Israel lobby. Adds: Tehran's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow
Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON – Republican presidential candidate John McCain told a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Monday that the US would not accept a nuclear Iran under his leadership.

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"Tehran's continued pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an unacceptable risk, a danger we cannot allow," the Arizona senator told the annual conference of the pro-Israel lobby group in Washington. "Emboldened by nuclear weapons, Iran would feel free to sponsor terrorist attacks against any perceived enemy. Its flouting of the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty would render that agreement obsolete and could induce Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and others to join a nuclear arms race.


Click here for video highlights of McCain's speech


"The world would have to live indefinitely with the possibility that Tehran might pass nuclear materials or weapons to one of its allied terrorist networks. Armed as well with its ballistic missile arsenal, an Iranian nuclear bomb would pose an existential threat to the people of Israel," he said.


Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are also expected to address the three-day conference, as are Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.


McCain addresses AIPAC conference (Photo: AP)


During his speech McCain recalled his recent visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and said "these are the kinds of experiences that the Jewish people carry in memory, and they are far from the worst experiences of the Holocaust. These are the kind of griefs and afflictions from which the state of Israel offered escape.


"And today, when we join in saying 'never again', that is not a wish, a request or a plea to the enemies of Israel. It is a promise that the United States and Israel will honor against any enemy," he said.


Turning his attention back to Israel's security, the senator said "I am committed to making certain Israel maintains its qualitative military edge. Israel's enemies are too numerous, its margin of error too small and our shared interests and values too great for us to follow any other policy.


"Foremost in all our minds is the threat posed by the regime in Tehran. The Iranian president has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and suggested that Israel's Jewish population should return to Europe. He calls Israel a stinking corpse that is on its way to annihilation," he said, 'but the Iranian leadership does far more than issue vile insults. It acts in ways directly detrimental to the security of Israel and the United States".


McCain added that as a further measure to "contain and deter Iran", the United States should impose financial sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, "which aids in Iran's terrorism and weapons proliferation".


The senator criticized Obama for failing to back an amendment calling for the designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization responsible for killing American troops in Iraq.


"Over three quarters of the Senate supported this obvious step, but not Senator Obama. He opposed this resolution because its support for countering Iranian influence in Iraq was, he said, quote, 'a wrong message not only to the world, but also to the region.' But here, too, he is mistaken. Holding Iran's influence in check -- and holding a terrorist organization accountable -- sends exactly the right message to Iran, to the region and to the world," McCain said.


Referring to the ongoing peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, McCain said "Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are engaged in talks that all of us hope will yield progress toward peace. Yet while we encourage this process, we must also ensure that Israel's people can live in safety until there is a Palestinian leadership willing and able to deliver peace.


"A peace process that places faith in terrorists can never end in peace, and we do no favors to the Palestinian people by conferring approval upon the terrorist syndicate that has seized power in Gaza," he said.