Thank you so much. You all are great, a great sight to see. And I am so happy I have this chance to come and thank you personally for everything you do. And Yael, thank you for your leadership. I first got to know her over the phone as she was eight months pregnant helping to evacuate our mission in Tripoli. And it’s wonderful to see you here. I haven’t yet met your daughter, but I’m looking forward to that. And I want to thank everyone who brought these young people out to see me. I’m very glad to have that opportunity. And I’m so delighted to be here with Dan and Julie. I got to work with Dan when he was in the White House, and it’s wonderful to see him in action here in Israel.
But mostly I wanted to say thank you to all of you for the work that you do every single day here in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv supporting the extraordinarily important ties between the United States and Israel, working with the Palestinian Authority on so many of the issues that are critically important, assisting a huge number of Americans who visit this area, and of course, continuing our commitment as we seek to support a lasting peace. You are working at the forefront of one of our most important and challenging diplomatic efforts. Here in the Consulate General you are assisting with development and security, helping to build the infrastructure for a future Palestinian state. In the Embassy you’re sustaining one of our most important alliances, building the people-to-people connections that are so important to our relationship. And over the last year and a half, you’ve all continued to promote American interests amid the turbulence and unpredictable circumstances of the changes sweeping the region.
Looking at all of you is very reassuring. I read cables. I get reports. But I like seeing you in person. And it’s not just because you handle so many complex issues with great poise and professionalism, but it’s also frankly because this group represents the sort of collaboration across ethnicities and faiths that is so essential in the 21st century. It’s essential to move toward the goals of bringing people together, of finding common ground, and of building a future based on mutual respect and mutual interests.
Now, I’m told that the 4th of July party was a great example of the way that you can bring people together from every walk of life – Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Christians, Muslims, Jews, you name it. Everybody was here. And I am very pleased that the diversity of experiences and ideas you bring to work every day is helping us navigate the challenges we face.
I also want to thank the family members who are here. Now, I do love Jerusalem so it’s not like I’m saying that this is a hardship post, because it certainly is challenging but it’s also an extraordinary opportunity. Yet nevertheless I know that you have all to make sacrifices in order to serve in our overseas missions and in one that has as complex an agenda as this does. And you’re not as close to the beach as our mission in Tel Aviv is – (laughter) – so you get the beauty of Jerusalem but without the beach time, so I suppose that’s a fair tradeoff, more or less.
I want to mention one family here today, Vince Romero’s wife Iris and his daughter Annie, who are safe havened here – (applause) – and I love that hat that Annie’s got – while he serves in Kabul with our mission there. I was just there about two weeks ago. And the service that Vince is performing is exceptional, and last week he was named GSO of the Year. So although I know what a sacrifice it is to be separated, we are very grateful to him and to both of you for the service to our country.
And let me say a special word of thanks to our locally employed staff and your families, Israeli and Palestinian alike. You are truly the engine that keeps this mission running. Ambassadors and consuls general and secretaries come and go, but our locally employed staff is here year after year serving as the memory bank and the nerve center of all that we continue to do here and at the Embassy.
So from President Obama and myself, thank you. Thank you for your exemplary service, your commitment, for representing the United States so well. We may not always say it, but we know it, and whenever I get a chance to say it, I try to do so because I want you to hear it: We know what you’re doing and we appreciate it very, very much.
And now let me turn the podium over to Ambassador Dan Shapiro.