It’s wonderful to have all of you here with us and to take part in what is certainly a very important occasion for Dan and his family, but also for our country and for our friend and partner, Israel. And it is especially heartening to see the Shapiro-Fisher clan so well represented with us. And I think that Julie and Dan’s three daughters are going to expand dramatically our diplomatic outreach. (Laughter, applause.) I want to recognize also colleagues from the diplomatic corps, especially our ambassadors to the United States from Israel, Turkey, Morocco, and the PLO Chief Representative.
But it is no surprise that Dan would draw such a crowd. His talent, his insight, his hard work, his good humor have made him a favorite here in Washington. And as he has traveled across the world on behalf of our country, he’s become a favorite in many other places as well. He is known rightly as a trusted partner and an honest interlocutor, as they say in diplo-speak, and that’s why President Obama relied on him so heavily these past 2.5 years and why we are now sending Dan on this critical new mission.
The friendship between the United States and Israel runs deep. It is rooted in shared values that are at the core of our respective national identities. Democracy, opportunity, tolerance – these and other values are written into our DNA. And the bonds we have formed are enduring and unshakable. So for more than six decades, through Democratic and Republican administrations alike, the United States has remained committed to Israel’s security and success. And from his first days in office, President Obama has upheld and strengthened that commitment.
Under President Obama’s leadership, with Dan by his side, we continue to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, we have increased security assistance, joint exercises and high-level consultations, and we have supplied new missile defense systems that are saving Israeli lives. Because we are convinced that Israel’s future depends upon achieving a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, we have consistently worked to support negotiations between the parties. And as President Obama said in May, while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear – a secure Israel and a viable Palestine.
Today, by sending one of his closest advisors to be our new ambassador, President Obama is once again demonstrating not only our national commitment, but his personal commitment to the strength of this relationship to Israel’s future, its security, and its success.
Now, Dan Shapiro first visited Israel when he was four years old. He was there with his parents during the Yom Kippur War. He saw civilians hiding in bomb shelters and he watched brave young men and women going off to defend their country. Over the years, he returned time and time again. At Hebrew University during the first intifada, Dan and his classmates spent many hours discussing how Israelis and Palestinians could one day live in peace, side-by-side. Dan has seen firsthand that the status quo is unsustainable.
Back in Washington, Dan has become one of the most respected voices on Middle East affairs and a champion for the U.S.-Israel relationship. He spent years in the Senate, first with Senator Feinstein and then with Senator Bill Nelson. And you’d be surprised how much you can learn about Israel and the challenges it faces by spending quality time in Palm Beach and Boca Raton. (Laughter.) Dan emerged as a real leader and helped enact new sanctions on Syria and to designate Hezbollah’s satellite television operation as a foreign terrorist organization.
Since 2009, Dan has counseled the President and worked closely with me – and we’ve had some memorable times on the road together – as Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa on the National Security Staff. Like the President, I have come to rely on Dan’s good judgment and his tireless work ethic. No hour is too late for one more meeting or one last discussion. (Laughter.) I see some chuckles of recognition in the crowd. In fact, just give in early. (Laughter.) If Dan is calling, just take the call. You might as well.
And what he has done on being on the other end of those late night phone calls, video conferences, and urgent cables, is continue our strong commitment and also look for a good and just and secure way forward for Israel.
As Dan himself would be the first to admit, he does have a special place in his heart for SPAM, and not just rapid-fire emails is what I’m talking about. I’m talking about highly processed canned meat – (laughter) – kosher, of course. (Laughter.) And he’s not alone. Dan was once having a meal at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s house, and although the food was delicious – which I can attest to, having eaten many meals over the years there – he asked the prime minister about his reported fondness for the SPAM they serve in the IDF. Bibi jumped out of his chair in excitement, raced from the room, returned proudly holding a can and declared it his favorite food. (Laughter.) So we are thinking, Dan and I, about having the SPAM Conference to bring people together across all the lines that divide us. (Laughter.) And right there next to the SPAM will be Diet Mountain Dew. (Laughter.)
Well, we know that Dan has a big job ahead of him, but he is someone we have every confidence in. We are, frankly, sorry to lose him. We are not happy about sending him to Israel, although we’re thrilled for him and looking forward to visiting him and Julie. But it is with enormous confidence that we ask Dan to represent our country and the Obama Administration, and help us write a new chapter in the enduring partnership between United States and Israel.
God bless you, Dan. (Applause.)
All right. Now is the time, here we go, the moment we have all been waiting for.
(The oath was administered.)