In honor of America’s Independence Day, Israeli leaders gathered with hundreds of people at U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro’s residence in Tel Aviv to celebrate. In addition to Shapiro, President Shimon Peres spoke to the crowd and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke via video.
Israeli President Shimon Peres was the main speaker at the Independence Day celebration, which featured hundreds of guests.
‘There is a historic friendship between our two nations. America was, and remains, Israel’s greatest ally and its closest friend,’ Peres declared.
He called President Obama’s decision to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom ‘a moving gesture of a great leader, a great friend, President Obama. It was an expression of the unshakeable bond between our countries, our two nations, our two peoples. I felt the commitment of President Obama to the peace and security of the State of Israel. It was an uncompromising pledge to the security and future of Israel followed by generous implementation.’
Peres also discussed the shared values between the two countries, saying ‘The United States and Israel were conceived as ideas, to better society, serving a greater good. Always dreaming and always looking forward. Never hating, never attacking and always seeking peace. We share similarities. We are both immigrant-based societies. We both share a pioneering culture. But even more importantly we share a moral compass; we champion freedom, cherish liberty and are committed to the pursuit of happiness. We both see science and technology as the route to a better world. We value the individual as an entrepreneur and the collective responsibility as a source of strength…’
Netanyahu did not attend the event, due to a leg injury sustained while playing soccer with Jewish and Arab children last month.
Referring to the Middle East, Netanyahu said real democracy is not just having popular elections.
‘By ensuring both popular sovereignty and individual rights, the nations of the region can join America and Israel in being genuine democracies,’ Netanyahu said, adding that ‘there is ample reason for skepticism.’
However, he continued, ‘In the long term I believe there is reason for hope,’ because ‘the power of freedom is bound to prevail.’
You can watch Netanyahu’s message here, or you can see the video below.
Attila Somfalvi of Ynet elaborated on Peres’s remarks, adding that he praised President Barack Obama as being “strong as a lion.” Somfalvi wrote:
Peres opened his speech by thanking US President Barack Obama for the Medal of Freedom. ‘Beyond my own personal gratefulness for the decision of President Obama to award me this medal I felt a profound sense of national pride. It was in my eyes a moving gesture of a great leader and a great friend of Israel.’
Addressing the Iranian issue, Peres said that the leadership in Tehran was the ‘greatest threat to world peace.’ He added, ‘I am convinced that President Obama will stand on this issue strong as a lion.
‘President Obama has assembled a coalition to lead the international campaign of sanctions and diplomatic understanding to call upon the Iranian regime to change its course. He prefers to achieve an end to the issue peacefully but he has made it clear that all options remain on the table.’
Speaking at the event, Shapiro invoked the words of the Declaration of Independence, reminding the crowd of how Americans have relied on those principles time and time again, making the U.S. a “force for good around the world.” Shapiro said:
But although our celebrations tend toward the light and festive, we are in fact celebrating something deeply meaningful and serious: the core American values that were laid out in our Declaration of Independence 236 years ago and our Constitution 225 years ago: The self-evident truth of the equality of all people. That we are, all of us, endowed by our Creator with unalienable Rights. That all people possess the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That a government formed by, and answerable to, the people, We the People of the United States, exists in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.
These words, which still stir us, centuries on, are so well-known and so often repeated, that is easy to forget how radical the ideas were when they were first written. A government that drew its legitimacy from the consent of the governed. Self-imposed limits on power. Governance with the goal of serving the common good. A constant striving toward a more just society, a more perfect union.
Through generations, Americans have steadfastly built our nation on these principles, through good times and bad. Through a war of independence, the agony of a civil war, the crucible of eradicating slavery, waves of immigration from across the world, a great depression, world wars, a cold war, the battle to extend civil rights to all, recessions, divisive and costly conflicts overseas, and the scourge of terrorism on our own soil, we have never strayed from these basic principles. We have been blessed by great leaders, men and women of vision and character - Jefferson, Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Roosevelt and Truman, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, and many more - and by a people driven to create, invent, innovate, and build a great nation.
And wherever possible, America has been a force for good around the world - an ally to democratic nations and those aspiring to be; a source of inspiration to those suffering under oppressive regimes; willingly joining the battle, often at great sacrifice, to extend freedom and defeat the forces of tyranny; and a tireless promoter of peace and security for free people everywhere.
It is not surprising, therefore, that we have found our deepest partnerships with those who share these ideals. And in that spirit, I can think of no people more appropriate to celebrate our Independence Day, no people with whom we identify more closely, no people whose story more closely resembles our own, than the people of Israel.
Israel’s story, like America’s, is one of radical ideas molded into reality by the sheer force of human will, bravery, and commitment. The re-establishment of Jewish sovereignty in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people. The in-gathering of exiles from every corner of the globe. And of course, a democracy, with the values of freedom, the rule of the people, rights for all, tolerance, and unity enshrined in Israel’s founding documents and protected by its institutions.
Israelis have held fast to these values through wars of survival and terrible waves of terrorism, enduring great costs to protect their homeland; through the absorption of immigrants speaking dozens of languages, yet forging a common identity; through the early years of economic austerity and the building of a modern state. You, too, have been blessed by great and visionary leaders - Ben-Gurion and Begin, Golda and Rabin, and many others. No one can match the Israeli people’s energy, creativity, guts, and spirit. And through the decades, your commitment to your democratic values has proven strong, lasting, and resilient.
We have many common interests, the United States and Israel. But our unshakeable commitment to Israel is, first and foremost, a reflection of these shared values. President Obama has observed that the deep partnership between the United States and Israel is rooted in people-to-people ties and common ideals. As we celebrate today the birth of our democratic nation - we also celebrate the historic partnership between us.
You can read Shapiro’s remarks in their entirety here.
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren also wrote a letter praising the “unbreakable” bond between the United States and Israel, noting that the connection goes back throughout the entirety of America’s existence. Oren wrote:
After America declared its independence in 1776, the leaders of the new country had to decide on its national symbol. Some preferred the bald eagle, while others wanted Moses leading the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. The eagle narrowly won, but the fact that the Moses symbol was in contention and was suggested by none other than Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, suggested how emblematic was the deep spiritual connection between America and the idea of a Jewish state.
Indeed, a great many prominent Americans, including John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson, supported reestablishing Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Harry Truman, who claimed to know the Bible by heart, ignored the opposition of his own Secretary of State, and made the United States the first nation on earth to recognize Israel a mere 11 minutes after it declared its independence on May 14, 1948. ‘I am Cyrus,’ Truman said, likening himself to the ancient Persian king who, in the Bible, restored the Jews to their homeland.
Like America, Israel wrested its freedom from Britain, and forged a democracy. Along with the United States and a handful of other countries, Israel is one of the few nations in the world never to have known non-democratic rule. This fact furnished an additional bond between the United States and Israel, one that is symbolized by Lincoln Street in Jerusalem and Ben Gurion Avenue in New York, and by the memorials in Israel for Martin Luther King, Jr., John Kennedy, and the victims of 9/11. Only Israel has a park named for, and featuring an exact replica of, the Liberty Bell.
After the 1967 Six-Day War, the United States and Israel embarked on a strategic alliance that is today both multi-faceted and vast. The deep spiritual connection combined with our shared democratic values and our close defense ties account for the American public’s extraordinary support for Israel, which is at a near all-time high. That is why President Obama has said that he has spent more hours talking with Prime Minister Netanyahu than with any foreign leader, and has declared that ‘America has no better friend in the world than Israel.’ Netanyahu, who has twice addressed joint sessions of Congress, similarly described the United States as ‘Israel’s best friend in the world.’
Our mutual commitment has passed from president to president and prime minister to prime minister, remaining unbreakable. This 4th of July, with much of the Middle East in turmoil and Iran striving to make nuclear weapons, Americans know that there is one state in the region that is relentlessly democratic, economically and militarily robust, remarkably innovative, and unequivocally pro-America. All Israelis join in wishing our 300 million American friends the happiest of national birthdays.
You can read Oren’s letter here.
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