My fellow Americans, I could say it is an honor to speak again before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. I could also dish out the usual rhetoric you expect from American political leaders of both parties -- an emotional, iron-clad guarantee to maintain America's undying support for Israel, the embattled outpost of democracy, and so on and on and on, to great applause...
But -- as befits a conversation among long time friends -- I'd rather be frank.
As we all know, the reason I'm here is because you are the most powerful lobby in Washington -- the mightiest senators and congressmen live in terror of your disapproval. Your decision on who to support will be a key factor in the coming presidential elections.
That power has brought you innumerable victories. Though Israel is one of the smallest nations, altogether since World War II it has received more foreign aid from the U.S. than any other country. Though we condemn Iran's nuclear program, we still officially ignore the fact that Israel has had the bomb for more than 40 years.
Our leaders have gone along with the fiction that Israel is somehow a key strategic asset for the U.S. in the Middle East, when, in fact, the opposite is true. Our unwavering support of Israel has won us the hostility of the entire Arab and much of the Muslim world.
O.K. But that's the past. Today the U.S. and Israel face huge new challenges in the Middle East. And I have decided that provoking your disapproval is a risk I must take... for the sake of America -- as well as Israel.
We can no longer afford to confuse supporting the State of Israel with supporting the policies of the leaders who control the Israeli government at a particular time. The interests of the two are not necessarily the same. Particularly when, in my view -- and the view of many Israelis as well -- those policies undermine the long-term security of the Israel.
As president of the United States, I was elected to serve the interests of all 300 million Americans -- not a tiny minority, numbering just 2.2% of our population. Of course, we value your great contributions to all facets of our society and our culture, but that doesn't translate into continuing to give AIPAC the right to call the shots on a key element of our Middle Eastern Policy.
Indeed, within the American Jewish community itself, there are new lobbying groups, such as JPAC, who are highly critical of Israel's current leaders, and make it clear that AIPAC may not represent the consensus of American Jews.
As I have said, the government of Israel can no longer put off serious negotiations with the Palestinians. Population growth and the current uprisings sweeping the region are certain to work against Israel's long-run security.
Unfortunately, Prime Minister Netanyahu has made it more than clear that his government has no real interest in taking the steps needed to convince the Palestinians that negotiations would be worth their while. This is not just me saying this. The Prime Minister's political opponents and important Israeli commentators are saying it as well.
Therefore, as president of the United States -- of all Americans -- I am today announcing a change in policy towards the Middle East. I have decided that we will no longer stand in the way of the Palestinian drive for a United Nations resolution next September to recognize the existence of a Palestinian State. I realize that resolution will not actually create a state -- but it may be the best way to start the process going.
I am also calling once again on the government of Israel to cease the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. I made that same request a few years ago, but backed down when Prime Minister Netanyahu refused. I was wrong to back down. It will not happen again.
The Israeli government charges that Hamas is a terrorist organization. It is, and we have labeled it as such. I call upon Hamas to reconsider its aims if it truly wants to achieve a settlement with Israel.
On the other hand, other violent groups once labeled terrorist organizations -- such as the IRA -- changed their tactics with the lure of peace negotiations. Indeed, at one time in their careers two of Israel's most renowned leaders -- Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir -- were condemned as terrorists themselves.
I realize this new policy may well subject me to a barrage of the most virulent political attacks - -from right wing TV talkshows to lurid ads filling our media, to congressional resolutions. It will be charged that all along I -- Barrack Hussein Obama -- have been secretly plotting with radical Islam to destroy Israel. And after Israel, the United States.
They will say of course, that I am anti-Semitic -- a charge that is leveled these days against any prominent individual who criticizes the current government of Israel. An irony, since -- as I've said -- some of the strongest attacks on Israel's current policies come from Israeli Jewish commentators and politicians themselves.
I understand the emotional storm that is roiling this audience right now -- I can hear the boos and catcalls. I can feel your enormous upset. But I ask you members of AIPAC -- before you and your allies unleash an attack against me in the media and in the Congress and local communities across the country -- I ask you, by unleashing such a massive campaign -- if in the end, isn't there a danger that such a massive campaign may demonstrate to the American people -- to all the American people -- exactly the point I have been making in this speech? That is -- the extent to which your lobby has distorted the workings of our democratic system.
In short, in the end, your attempt to defeat my desire to pursue a policy that is in the interests of all Americans -- as well as the State of Israel -- could lead to your own downfall.
Think about it. And thanks for letting me talk.
Originally appeared on Truthdig.com.