Denis McDonough Speaks at Israel Independence Day Celebration

Last night, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, gave remarks at Israel's Independence Day Celebration. While addressing many distinguished Members of Congress—from both sides of the aisle—as well as members of the diplomatic community, he made clear that the U.S.-Israel relationship goes beyond political rhetoric and demonstrates its strength in action:

These are not just words.  We are backing up that unshakeable commitment with unparalleled action.  Since President Obama took office, the United States has provided Israel almost $24 billion in military aid to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge.  We’ve invested in missile defense systems, like Iron Dome, that have saved Israeli lives.  Later this year, we’ll begin delivering the cutting-edge F-35 fighter jet, making Israel the only Middle Eastern nation to obtain this advanced aircraft.  And we’re in the process of discussing a new agreement to guide our military assistance for the next decade.  This would be the largest military aid package in American history—with any country—and this Administration continues to work it hard.  And even as we acknowledge that the Iran deal has stirred strong passions, we firmly believe that continuing to implement this deal is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and keep Israel safe.

America’s commitment to Israel motivates the United States to speak out and take action whenever anti-Semitism and bigotry arise.  That’s true on the floor of the United Nations, in the streets of Europe, or here in our own country.  Because, as Secretary Pritzker said so powerfully last week, “hate speech has a friend in silence.”  Each of us has a responsibility to continue calling out and working against hatred wherever we see it.  And we will.

Our commitment to Israel and its long-term security also calls us to continue pursuing a path to peace—to seek two states for two peoples, living side by side in peace and security.  We are under no illusions that this will be easy.  History has proven otherwise.  For both Israelis and Palestinians, the hurt and heartache run deep.  At the same time, we continue to believe that peace is necessary, that it is just—and that it is possible.  We will continue urging both sides to take meaningful action towards this vision of two states.  That is our solemn promise, and the future we hope to help build together.

Just a few weeks ago, the President hosted his eighth and final Seder at the White House.  Like so many Jews here and around the world, the President and his guests ate the bread of affliction and dipped greens into salt water.  They retold the tale of the Exodus—of an oppressed people wandering for years before finding redemption.  Because of Theodor Herzl’s dream and Ben-Gurion’s determination, because of Golda Meir and Chaim Weizmann and so many others, that yearning to return to Israel was fulfilled.  That 2,000-year-old hope for a homeland has become reality.  Israel is now strong, and independent, and thriving.

To read the remarks in full on the White House website, click here.

Photo: Twitter/Embassy of Israel

Photo: Twitter/Embassy of Israel