Welcome again, it’s wonderful to see all of you here at this important celebration of America’s history. Julie and I are honored by so many special guests, too many to name, but I want to extend a special welcome, of course, to President Peres—I’m very glad you could join us tonight and appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to celebrate with us. We will also be hearing greetings from Prime Minister Netanyahu in a few moments, by video, and I’m grateful for his participation. We wish him a speedy recovery. I also want to send our condolences to the family of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
I would also like to thank the talented performers that have joined us this evening – The United States Air Forces in Europe Woodwind Quintet, Winds Aloft, joining us from Germany, the Jazz ensemble from the Israeli Conservatory of Music, Eric Huntsman from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and Hagit Yassu, winner of “Kokhav Nolad,” and pianist Ido Rivlin. And as always, the Marine Security Guard Detachment of the American Embassy—we are honored to have them here with us tonight to present the colors. Let’s give them all a hand.
In the United States we celebrate July 4th with good food, good friends, patriotic music, and of course, fireworks—I’m so glad that we are able to share this with all of you here tonight. I’m pretty sure many of you would have come to celebrate with us without those things, but it doesn’t hurt that we have some great American companies here to give you, literally, a taste of America.
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 defence, 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.
As many of you know, I lived in Israel as a child and spent time here as a student. Returning here as the United States Ambassador with my family has helped us renew our connections to Israel and work every day to deepen the partnership between our two countries, to learn first-hand about the amazing cultural, economic and social advances that are happening here, and to harvest the fruits of all our collaborations together. I would like to share with you a few brief examples of what I have seen over the past year.
We have deepened our security partnership in so many ways, which benefits both of us. We have collaborated to address the common threats we face, we have shared intelligence and military training, and we have developed technologies, like Israeli-produced military armor and U.S. funded-Iron Dome batteries, that are saving the lives of Americans and Israelis every day. The partnership between Americans and Israelis who don the uniform to defend their countries is a moving tribute to our friendship and shared values.
We have coordinated to an unprecedented degree in our shared determination to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. No issue is higher on the agendas of the United States and Israel, and we will not let up until we achieve our goal. We have shared our assessments and planned for every contingency in the uncharted waters of the historic changes taking place in the Middle East. And we have worked together to bring closer the day when Israel will be able to live in peace and security alongside an independent and peaceful Palestinian state.
The future of the US-Israel partnership is bright and strong –this is demonstrated not only by our security cooperation—but also through our linkages in commerce, innovation, science and technology, and cultural partnerships. Every day, Americans and Israelis are working together from the smallest start-up company to large multinational corporations—our countries are intertwined in a way that demonstrates not only our shared values but also our drive to improve the future.
I have had the unique opportunity to visit universities all across Israel and have been deeply impressed by the bright, motivated students that I met, ready to take on the world in business, economics, politics, medicine, and science. Our embassy is proud to promote academic exchanges through Fulbright programs, and our English classes at high schools around the country have opened the doors to higher education for many young Israelis.
Julie and I have also felt privileged to spend time getting to know the vast and vibrant diversity in Israeli society – Jews from European or Middle Eastern backgrounds, secular, religious, Haredim, Kipot Srugot, Russians, Arabs, Ethiopians, Christians, Muslims, Bedouin, and Druze – and discovering not only what makes each of them unique, but what they all have in common. The mayors and leaders of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Haifa, Jerusalem, Beersheva, Ashdod, Ramle, Nazareth, Arad, Bnei Brak, Beit Shean, Kiryat Gat, Meah Shearim, Baqa al-Gharbiya, Rehovot, Raanana, Herzliya, and Kibbutzim in the north, south and center have all welcomed us. We will be returning often, and visiting many others in the months ahead.
So today is a day to celebrate, not just the birth of our nation some 236 years ago, but the friendship between the United States and Israel, and the shared values of two democracies, committed to freedom, justice, and peaceful relations with others. We celebrate these values here today as part of the history of our country and with an eye toward the future of our deep and wide partnership with our steadfast friend, the State of Israel.
Finally, as I mentioned earlier in my welcome—this event was made possible by the hard work over several months of many people both at the Embassy and also from our private sector partners. You all have Julie and my utmost gratitude for the amazing work that you have done on such a large and dynamic event. I would like to give a special thanks to United Parcel Service. UPS is the sponsor of our fireworks this evening and continues to be a great partner of the Embassy.
And with that, on behalf of President Obama, Secretary Clinton, the American people, and all of us at the U.S. Embassy—Please enjoy yourselves—celebrate with food and drink and friends….and of course enjoy the fireworks. Happy 4th of July!