On behalf of Military Attache, General Yaakov Ayish, Deputy Ambassador Reuven Azar and all my colleagues at the Israeli Embassy, I want to thank all of you for joining us to celebrate Israel’s 68th Year of Independence.
I want to welcome the numerous Obama administration officials, the more than 60Senators and Members of Congress, and the many ambassadors and dignitaries who are here tonight. And I want to especially welcome Denis McDonough, President Obama’s Chief-of-Staff.
Having worked in a similar position for Prime Minister Netanyahu, I know that it is never easy to get away – so Denis, I appreciate you being with us.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Israel’s Independence Day is a time for many things. It is a time to marvel at Israel’s breathtaking development. To marvel at a nation whose population has grown ten-fold, whose economy has grown one hundred-fold, and which this year was ranked as the eighth most powerful country in the world.
It is a time to be proud of Israel’s spectacular achievements. To be proud of our cutting-edge technology, Nobel Prize winning science and medical breakthroughs that have made Israel one of the great forces of innovation and progress.
It is a time to celebrate Israel’s vibrant culture. To celebrate award winning writers, artists and musicians, world class museums, wines and restaurants and a country so exciting that Israelis actually go to Manhattan to unwind.
And it is a time to admire Israel’s resilient democracy. To admire a society where the debate is as free-spirited as the people, where courts protect the inalienable rights of Jews, Arabs, Druze and all citizens, where governments respect the sacred sites of Jews, Muslims, Christians and all faiths, and where our cherished democratic values are vigorously upheld in the most endangered democracy on earth.
But today is not Israel’s Development Day or Israel’s Achievement Day. It’s not Israel’s Culture Day or Israel’s
Democracy Day. Today is Israel’s Independence Day. So above all, today is a time to appreciate the great transformation that has occurred in the life of the Jewish people with the establishment of the Jewish state.
After two thousand years of being a stateless, voiceless and powerless people, we have once again become a sovereign nation that can speak up for itself and that can defend itself. Ladies and Gentlemen, Much has been said and written in recent years about the resurgence of antisemitism, particularly in what was once proudly called the free world. Many have bemoaned the metamorphosis of an ancient hatred against the Jewish people into a new hatred against the Jewish state. But the attempt to demonize, dehumanize and delegitimize Jews is a very old story.
What’s new is that today the Jewish people have a voice among the nations. What’s new is that today there is an IDF. That’s why Israel’s Independence Day is also a good time to remind our enemies that the Jewish people are powerless no more. To remind them that we have returned to our ancestral homeland from the killing fields of Europe, from Yemen, Iraq, and Morocco, from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union, and from over 100 countries around the world. To remind them that while Israel will never give up its hope for peace with all its neighbors, Israel will also never hesitate to defend itself.
And it is a time to remind them, and no less important, to remind ourselves, that a strong, prosperous and thriving Israel does not depend on them. What has been true for the past 68 years remains true today. Israel’s future depends on us. It depends on us continuing to develop our country, enhance our achievements, enrich our
culture and strengthen our democracy.
It depends on Israel remaining strong both in arms and in spirit. It depends on Israel reconciling faith and
freedom, on being both rooted in our past and poised to seize the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Celebrating our Independence Day in Washington DC is also an opportunity for Israel
to express its gratitude for its unique friendship with the United States. It is a friendship that has brought together people of different backgrounds, faiths, and ideologies. It is a friendship that has been reflected in
broad support among the American people, bipartisan support in the American Congress and in the support of every American President from Harry Truman to Barak Obama.
America’s friendship toward Israel has been expressed in countless ways – from generous military assistance to loan guarantees to vital support at the United Nations. Similarly, Israel’s friendship towards America has been expressed in countless ways – from being a strong and reliable ally in a region critical for America’s interests to defeating America’s enemies on the battlefield to abiding by the values that America has long championed around the world. And the mutual benefits of our unique friendship have also been expressed in countless ways – from the intelligence we share together to the missile-defense systems we develop together to the peace and stability we advance together.
For all these reasons and more, Israel is deeply grateful for the support of the United States. And I want to use this Independence Day, the final one of President Obama’s tenure, to once again express Israel’s gratitude for the
many concrete ways President Obama has supported Israel during his Presidency.
I also want to use this opportunity to once again thank President Obama for being the first sitting American President to ever speak at Israel’s Embassy in Washington. He spoke earlier this year at a ceremony we held honoring Americans whom Israel recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” for risking their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.
President Obama’s speech was a fitting tribute to these heroes and an important contribution to raising awareness about the Holocaust. Now, ladies and gentlemen, there is no denying that Israel has had differences with the Obama administration over the best way to block Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and over the best way to advance a secure peace with the Palestinians. But the test of a relationship between two countries is not how strong it is when their two governments see eye-to-eye but rather how strong it is when they don’t – and the
relationship between Israel and America has passed that test with flying colors.
Today, on Israel’s 68th birthday, the colors of our two nations – Israel’s blue and white and America’s red, white and blue – stand side by side. And I have no doubt that anchored in shared values, buttressed by common interests and bound by a shared destiny, Israel and America will continue to stand side by side for generations to come.