Madam Secretary, Ambassador Oren, Ambassador Mekouar, Ambassador Tan, PLO Representative Areikat, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and my many dear family and friends: Thank you for coming to share this occasion with us today.
I’m a bit embarrassed by the fuss, but deeply grateful for your presence. I attribute the large turnout much less to my own qualifications and much more to the shared commitment among all in attendance to the closest of relations between the United States and our great ally Israel.
My ambassadorship will be but one chapter in this long, ongoing, and deeply moving story of friendship.
Madam Secretary, you see, it’s a little like a Bar Mitzvah. Smiling family members. A rabbi or two in the room. Young fella in a stiff suit, standing before a crowd, hoping to get through his speech without his voice cracking.
But in the receiving line, instead of handing me greeting cards, these folks will be handing me their business cards with the dates they intend to visit us in Herzliya scribbled on the back.
There are so many people I need to thank, that to mention them all would keep us here all day. So I will try to be brief. First and foremost, I wish to thank President Obama for the trust and confidence he has shown in appointing me to this position.
It has been the highest honor of my professional life to serve this President for four and a half years now, and to work to advance his vision of a stronger, safer, more secure America. Under his leadership, we have tackled amazing challenges and emerged stronger, and I look forward to continuing to serve him in the years ahead.
Madam Secretary, I thank you for your trust and confidence and support. Your leadership of America’s diplomacy has been an inspiration for those of us serving in the government, and for so many others.
While working at the White House, I have considered myself a member of your team on challenges such as pursuing Middle East peace and managing the dramatic changes unfolding in the Arab world. I’m now doubly honored that my pay stub will make my membership official.
I thank the members of the United States Senate for confirming my nomination. And I want to recognize the Members of Congress here and their staffs, who work year after year to ensure that the U.S.-Israel friendship is a bipartisan commitment and that our crucial security assistance to Israel is fully funded. Thank you for your leadership.
Ambassador Michael Oren, I thank you for your friendship. You and I have formed a great partnership in managing all aspects of the broad and deep U.S.-Israel relationship – from visits, to negotiations, to forest fires – and I look forward to continuing it.
As you and Sally have welcomed us into your home in Washington, Julie and I look forward to welcoming you into ours in Israel.
I have benefitted so much from the guidance and wisdom of the leadership of the President’s national security team, particularly former National Security Adviser General Jim Jones, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough.
And I owe a special thanks to Mark Lippert for bringing me on to the Obama team in 2007. It has been an honor to serve with all of them.
To members of the National Security Staff who are here, you are brilliant, dedicated public servants who toil endlessly and mostly anonymously to keep our fellow citizens safe. I have been humbled and privileged to be your colleague.
And to my colleagues from the State Department, and especially from the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs under the leadership of Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman, I have enjoyed working with you from the White House.
I admire the skill and tenacity you bring to the task of diplomacy, and I have learned much from your professionalism and effectiveness. It is an honor now to join your ranks.
I have also had the great good fortune to work for some of the finest leaders and public servants our nation has had. I particularly wish to recognize and thank former Congressman Lee Hamilton, Senator Dianne Feinstein, former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and Senator Bill Nelson.
I have learned so much from all of them, and any success I have is due to the opportunities they gave me.
Julie and I and our family are blessed with the love and support of many friends — those with whom I work, those who have come in from out of town, and those from the two centers of our lives here in Washington, DC, the Adas Israel Synagogue community, and the Jewish Primary Day School. Thank you all.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank my family. My parents, Michael and Elizabeth Shapiro, my sisters, Carolyn and Naomi, my brother Jonathan, and all of their spouses and children, my mother and father-in-law, John and Jane Fisher, and my sister and brother-in-law and their daughters have all showered me with affection and support, despite my often being too busy to properly reciprocate.
I also know that my beloved grandparents, and Julie’s grandparents, including her amazing grandmother Norma Lemberg, who passed away last week, would take great pride and pleasure in this moment. Their spirits are with us today.
Most of all, I want to thank my wife, Julie, and our three amazing daughters. Julie, you are brilliant, endlessly patient and supportive, and the world’s greatest mother. You are all I could ever dream of in a best friend and life partner.
Liat, Merav, and Shira, you are God’s greatest blessing to us, the center of our world, and the reason our lives our filled with joy, laughter, and song. (Also cartwheels.) I love you with all my heart. And Israelis are going to love getting to know you!
The boundless love all four of you give me every day sustains me and inspires me.
My last job entailed profound sacrifices for our family, and so will this new job. But I am excited to share the next years with you as a family adventure.
We will explore a country we love, we will make many new friends, and you will be my partners in strengthening the close friendship between the United States and Israel.
In my family, both growing up and today, the connection between the United States and Israel has always been a priority. For someone of my background, there can scarcely be a higher honor than to be asked to help nurture the ties between our great country, the United States, and our great ally, the State of Israel.
For me, it is more than a job, more than a cause. It is a calling and a passion. And it is a passion that I share with President Obama and with you, Madam Secretary, because it serves our nation’s interests and upholds our nation’s values.
It entails working to safeguard Israel’s security, in the midst of a dangerous region with enemies sworn to its destruction, at a time of great change in the Middle East that carries with it both risk and opportunity. The President has instructed me to make Israel’s security my top priority, as he has done for the past two and a half years.
This we are doing by raising the remarkable cooperation and coordination between our militaries and our intelligence services to their highest levels ever. The recent success of the Iron Dome system is but one example of our accomplishments in this area.
And I want to recognize a great partner in these efforts, the immediate former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, General Gabi Ashkenazi, who is with us today.
It entails working to safeguard Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state at peace with its neighbors, a secure homeland for the Jewish people.
This we are doing, by working together to find a way forward toward a two-state solution and peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and by opposing all efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel internationally.
And it entails working at all levels of our societies to expand the remarkable depth and breadth of the bonds between our peoples, including our burgeoning economic relationship.
As one small, but poignant example, today marks the final launch of the Space Shuttle. The shuttle program will forever link Americans and Israelis in pride and sadness, as we recall the final flight of the Shuttle Columbia, which took the lives of Ilan Ramon and his six American crewmates. Israelis are among the honored guests at today’s launch at Cape Canaveral.
We uphold Israel’s security, and work for peace, and deepen our connections, because America’s interests are served and America’s values are upheld by ensuring that we will always have a strong and secure Israel as our partner in the Middle East.
It has been that way since the first minutes of Israel’s founding, when President Harry S. Truman, for whom this building is named, courageously decided that the United States would be the first nation to recognize the fledgling Jewish state.
And it remains that way today, as President Obama said in a speech in this very room on May 19 of this year, when he spoke of our goal of a secure Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, recognized and at peace.
The task that I have been given as United States Ambassador to Israel is to strengthen these bonds. I will work to enhance communication between our governments, in close coordination with President Obama and Secretary Clinton, and with the Prime Minister and his team.
I will faithfully represent all Americans, and serve as their representative to all Israelis. I look forward to conducting an open dialogue with all the diverse communities within Israel’s dynamic society.
I will carry out my duties in a spirit of friendship and partnership. That will be my approach, just as it has always been President Obama’s approach to Israel, and just as it has always been your approach, Madam Secretary.
And having traveled with you in Israel, Madam Secretary, I can only hope to be received half as warmly as you are.
And if I could offer a few words in Hebrew to the citizens of Israel:
יש לי כמה מילים בעברית לאזרחי ישראל
שתי מדינותינו ימשיכו לעמוד ביחד כחברים להתמודד עם האתגרים וההזדמנויות שלפנינו ונצליח לבנות עתיד בהיר.
Our two countries will continue to stand together as friends to deal with the challenges and opportunities before us, and build a bright future.
Once again, I thank you for sharing this day with me and my family, and for sharing our commitment to an ever stronger friendship between the United States and Israel.