Mr. President, it is a special honor to welcome you for the first time to this stage. Mr. Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu, thank you for your decades of friendship to the United States. Ministers, General Eizenkot, Members of Knesset, Ambassadors, distinguished guests, to everyone who came down the hill or from down the street, welcome to our home, welcome to America’s home in Israel.
On behalf of President Barack Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry—and on behalf of the entire American people—we thank you for your partnership and your friendship, and for celebrating America’s Independence Day with us tonight.
My wife Julie and I, and our daughters, are also pleased to welcome many guests from the U.S. including visitors from the Congress.
For those who have attended this event before, you know that the heat and humidity are always out of our control, although we didn’t do too badly this year, but the entertainment is a different story.
Joining us this evening as you already heard, are the Whiffenpoofs of Yale University, Kafe Shahor Hazak, and also joining us are Touch n’ Go, an ensemble of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Band, and the Israel Conservatory of Music Tel Aviv Quintet, who were playing in the front yard. Please everybody another round of applause for all our musical entertainment tonight.
Our celebration falls this year during the holy month of Ramadan, so I want to wish you Ramadan Mubarak to all our guests who are celebrating tonight
Julie and I also want to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the U.S. Embassy staff—an amazing collection of American and Israeli professionals. You worked non-stop through last summer’s war and at one of the busiest Embassies worldwide. And you have worked for months to make this special celebration what it is.
I also want to thank all of the American companies who are supporting tonight’s event. We are proud of them and salute their contribution to enhancing the economic relationships between the United States and Israel.
A final word of thanks goes to my friend, Ambassador Vivian Bercovici, and her colleagues from the Canadian Embassy, who are graciously celebrating with us even though today, July 1, is Canada Day.
Canada is a great friend of the United States, a great friend of Israel. So, from all of us, we salute you, Canada, and thank you for your friendship.
Unlike our neighbor to the north, the United States is separated from the State of Israel by vast physical distances. But we share a closeness that is enjoyed by very few nations. Ours is an unshakeable alliance that rests on a foundation of shared values and common strategic interests. Today, it is also a relationship defined by the pursuit of our mutual prosperity and the common skills we have whether on the battlefield or in the marketplace. And we are nations that share a deep, abiding commitment to universal values and to improving the state of the world.
We also share the story of founding generations who fought against seemingly impossible odds. They fought to defend their very own communities, yet they also fought to defend ideals. Our founders—like Israel’s—paid dearly, many giving the ultimate sacrifice, but they left behind rich endowments of freedom and unquestioned obligations to serve humanity.
The United States of America was established to secure the natural rights of all of its citizens – of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – and our institutions of government were formed with the central purpose of protecting and promoting these rights.
But if you read the words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution side-by-side, you discover that our founders were deeply influenced by Jewish tradition. The pursuit of happiness is closely connected to things often singled out in Jewish texts for pursuit: Justice –Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof; and Peace: Bakesh Shalom v’Rodfeihu.
In just the past few years, we have watched as America has taken great strides to fulfill even more of its foundational promise to justice, to liberty, to peace and to opportunity for all who pursue happiness.
We have extended health care to millions of our citizens to whom it wasn’t available.
We have expanded civil rights and universal human rights, including this week the historical Supreme Court decision to ensure the right of every citizen to marry the person they love.
And we have advanced toward a more equitable society, in such areas as promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of life, building on the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. This is a value both the United States and Israel share, and I want to acknowledge all those who are here tonight representing the rights of people with disabilities in Israel.
We have also reinforced our commitment to global leadership and have invested more than ever in keeping the peace and in strengthening our alliances in a world beset by seemingly innumerable conflicts.
Here, in the Jewish state, we see a similar commitment to building a just society, in the words of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Mushtetet al Yisodot haHerut, haTzedek, v’haShalom, l’or Hazonam shel Niviei Yisrael, based on the principles of Freedom, Justice, and Peace, inspired by the vision of the prophets of Israel.
This is America; this is Israel. Together we strive not just to make a more perfect union at home, not just to ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare for our citizens, as important as those are, but also to lift up and repair the world at the same time.
So as we gather here to mark the 239th anniversary of America’s independence, we have so much to celebrate and so much to be proud of. And we feel the warmth of the Israeli people celebrating with us.
Through the centuries, we’ve been tested by adversaries who sought nothing less than to subjugate our national aspirations.
And so we recognize that here in Israel, there is still an ongoing struggle for security, for existence, for international recognition, and for peace.
America is not a bystander in this struggle. We are in the trenches with Israel fighting every day, and our relationship has only grown stronger. It was a commitment made by President Obama on his very first day in office, and it is a commitment that rests on decades of partnership and cooperation.
I am proud that the United States has Israel’s back – in Geneva, in The Hague, and anywhere where Israel’s right and ability to defend itself is called into question. Over the past year, we’ve deepened our cooperation in fighting defamation, delegitimization and double-standards against Israel and the scourge of anti-Semitism.
We have intensified our security and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented heights. In addition to the life-saving, US-sponsored Iron Dome missile defense system, the IDF will soon deploy the F-35 joint strike fighter, the most advanced fighter aircraft the world has ever seen. And our cooperation extends to other areas, such as medical advances that save lives on the battlefield, and help our wounded warriors recover, disaster response techniques, and cooperation on tunnel detection technologies.
We have also intensified our cooperation in the multi-front battle against the scourges of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. Just in the past few days, Israelis have been victimized by a spate of outrageous terrorist attacks. We condemn them, and we offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of Danny Gonen and Malachi Rosenfeld, z”l, and our prayers forrefuah shlema for the wounded.
In the current negotiations with Iran, as President Obama has said repeatedly, we will only accept a good agreement that cuts off every pathway Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon. Period.
The president has also committed to further strengthen our long-term security cooperation with Israel, and to look for further ways to make clear our unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
America’s commitment to peacemaking also remains strong.
We have invested untold efforts in that quest and we are deeply committed to the ultimate goal of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, including a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two states for two peoples, even though the path is difficult. It is more than just a policy; it is in America’s interest and it is our solemn obligation.
So even as Julie and I welcome you to our home to celebrate America’s birth, we do so with a deep awareness of the challenges ahead. But we draw strength—and trust that Israelis also draw strength—knowing we will continue to face them together.
Tonight’s celebration is a chance to renew our shared commitment to building a brighter, more secure, more prosperous future. In recent weeks I’ve been privileged to travel all across Israel—to Be’er Sheva, to Nazareth, to kibbutzim in the Galilee, to Eilat and the Arava, and to Netivot, Sdot Negev, and Eshkol.
I met business leaders and students; I visited high-tech start-ups; and I met social entrepreneurs. I met inspiring people, some rebuilding from great traumas, but all pointing the way to a brighter future, and wanting to do it together with the United States.
Every place I visited was a testament to the vibrancy and limitless potential that is the American-Israeli alliance.
Thank you all for coming to celebrate with us, and happy Independence Day!