AMBASSADOR DERMER: On behalf of my wife, Rhoda, and all my colleagues at the embassy, welcome to Israel’s 71st Independence Day celebration. I want to thank the many senior Trump administration officials, the over 50 members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, and the diplomats representing 70 nations who are here with us tonight. I especially want to welcome our guest of honor. Throughout his public life first as a congressman, then as CIA director, and now as Secretary of State, he has been an unwavering friend of Israel and a great champion of the U.S.-Israel alliance. Please join me in welcoming the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Ladies and gentlemen, Independence Day is a time to celebrate Israel’s resilient democracy. All of Israel’s citizens, whether Jew or Arab, Muslim or Christian, Druze or Bedouin, can take pride in living in a free country in the heart of a Middle East largely ruled by fear. Independence Day is also a time to celebrate Israel’s remarkable achievements. We celebrate the Israeli minds that have won a dozen Nobel Prizes, achieved breakthroughs in treating Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and which are now making progress in finding a cure for cancer. We celebrate the Israeli creativity that produces Oscar-winning films, James Beard Award-winning chefs, and unforgettable Eurovision champions. We celebrate the incredible story of how in only seven decades, a poor country with virtually no natural resources became a global technological power.
Showcased at this event tonight are cutting edge technologies from Israel that transform facial recognition and 3D imaging, provide the most advanced cybersecurity protection, and literally make water out of thin air. As the Beresheet spacecraft – where is that spacecraft? As the Beresheet spacecraft reminded us once again, for Israel, even the sky is not the limit. And for the record, technically Beresheet did land on the moon. (Laughter.) And Israel is proud to be only the fifth country to crash land on the moon.
Truth is if all you want out of life are soft landings Israel is not the place for you. Israel is a place for people who dream big, don’t fear failure, and who if at first don’t succeed, try and try again. In fact, Israel is the place where the Jewish people boldly went to where no people had gone before, where a powerless nation was transported from 2,000 years of statelessness into a sovereign future, where an exiled people returned to the same land where their patriarchs prayed, their prophets preached, and their kings ruled, where the laws of history were defied, and where an ancient dream became a modern miracle.
Ladies and gentlemen, here in Washington, D.C. Independence Day is also a time to celebrate the great alliance between Israel and the United States, which today is stronger than ever. (Applause.) Israel is deeply grateful for the tremendous support it has received from President Trump and the entire Trump administration.
Almost exactly a year ago, the United States opened its embassy in our capital, Jerusalem. (Applause.) And a few weeks ago, the United States recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. But remarkably, neither of those historic decisions was the most important decision affecting Israel’s future that the Trump administration made this past year. That fateful decision came last May when President Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran. (Applause.) In the 12 months since that hinge of history, the U.S. restored crippling sanctions against Iran, designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization, and ended waivers that were enabling some countries to buy Iranian oil. A year ago, an Iranian regime that vows and works to destroy Israel felt the wind at their backs and believed history was on their side.
Today, that same evil regime faces hurricane force headwinds and fears falling into history’s dustbin. A year ago, tens of billions of dollars in annual sanctions relief were fueling Iran’s war machine in the region. Today, thanks to massive American economic pressure, that fuel is drying up and the Middle East is safer because of it. Mr. Secretary, on behalf of the people of Israel, I want to thank you, President Trump, and the entire Trump administration for rejecting the path of appeasement, standing up to Iran’s aggression and terror, and confronting the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet. (Applause.)
I also want to thank this administration for speaking out so forcefully against a resurgent anti-Semitism, both here in America and around the globe. Last October, a few hours after a white supremacist murdered 11 Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, President Trump warned those who seek to destroy the Jews that America would seek to destroy them. And a few weeks ago, Secretary Pompeo rightly declared that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, and forcefully expressed his opposition to the anti-Semitic BDS movement. (Applause.)
We’ve come a long way since that day in the Oval Office on May 12th, 1948 when then Secretary of State George Marshall threatened to vote against President Truman that coming November if he decided to recognize the Jewish state. Fortunately two days later, President Truman did the right thing and became the first world leader to recognize Israel. In the decades that followed, a relationship that began as a moral cause grew into a partnership during the Cold War, and has now become the strategic alliance America and Israel enjoy today.
Israel is deeply grateful for all the support it has received from the United States over the decades, from Republican and Democratic administrations alike, with strong support on both sides of the aisle in Congress and with the overwhelming support of the American people. That support includes backing Israel’s right of self-defense, generous military assistance and missile defense funding, loan guarantees in times of economic crisis, critical diplomatic backing at the United Nations and elsewhere, and dedicated efforts to help Israel achieve peace with our Arab neighbors. (Applause.)
We celebrate this year 40 years of peace with Egypt and 25 years of peace with Jordan, and that certainly deserves a round of applause. (Applause.)
But while Israel has long received critical support from America, with each passing decade Israel is giving more and more support to America. In the years and decades ahead, I believe it will become increasingly clear just how indispensable an ally Israel is to the United States. With America in need of democratic allies that have powerful militaries, first-rate intelligence services, and advanced cyber capabilities, there are few, if any, security partners better than Israel. And with America in need of democratic allies that can help it maintain its technological supremacy for decades to come, there are no technology partners better than Israel.
Few people understand this better than Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. As director of the CIA, he knows how much Israel helps protect the security and interests of America and its allies around the world. As Secretary of State, he knows how important technology is to ensuring that America remains the preeminent power in the world, and how important Israeli technology has become in a world driven by innovation. And well before he was in either of those senior positions, he recognized that the alliance between America and Israel is based on shared values, anchored in shared interests, and driven by a shared sense of destiny.
Mr. Secretary, over the years, Israel has been blessed with many friends in both Republican and Democratic administrations who served as secretaries of state and who made important contributions to our alliance. But after working with you for the past two and a half years and seeing the extent of your commitment to the security and wellbeing of Israel, I can honestly say that Israel has never had a better friend in Foggy Bottom than you. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to America’s 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you all. Good evening. Ambassador Dermer, thank you for the kind remarks. I’m reminded when I’m introduced as the 70th Secretary of State that Donald Trump is the 45th President of the United States, so turnover in my gig is a lot higher. (Laughter.) So it’s great to be with you. And thanks too to all the distinguished guests here tonight – members of Congress, fellow diplomats who are here. I also see a bunch of young people up over here to the left. It’s wonderful that you are here tonight too to celebrate this Independence Day. I want also to extend a very warm welcome to all the Jewish community and faith leaders that are with us. It is great to be here with you. It’s not only a privilege and a treat, but it’s important.
I want to ask you all just to think back until the moment that Ambassador Dermer spoke about, 1948. A moment when David Ben-Gurion read aloud the final text of Israel’s Declaration of Independence at a museum in Tel Aviv, tensions were running high.
British rule in Palestine was ending that very evening, at midnight.
Arab states were about to invade.
There was no electricity in Jerusalem, so few in the city could actually hear Ben-Gurion’s words.
But, halfway across the world, America was listening, and it responded. It responded by formally recognizing Israel’s new government – just 11 minutes after that important announcement.
The New York Times reported – yes, I’m going to quote The New York Times here tonight. The New York Times reported the next morning America’s bold action promised – excuse me – prompted the Jewish people to breathe a collective “sigh of relief.”
And even though bombs were being dropped in Israel, and the survival of the new state was certainly far from certain, people in both of our nations were celebrating.
That celebration continues here tonight, in this very room, in this special place.
When we think about the statement that Ben-Gurion read, we’re reminded of a similar document – one drafted on parchment by a 33-year-old man named Thomas, 243 years ago this past – this coming July.
Of course, the historical circumstances were different in many ways.
But the similarities are striking.
First, each declaration forms its nation’s political bedrock.
Second, both speak of central ideas that are “self-evident” – In the American case, it’s the truth that men are created equal and have rights that are unalienable.
In Israel’s case, there’s a close parallel, based on the tradition the Hebrew prophets handed down: The right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate.
Both documents were created by citizens who knew that their words must be backed up with military strength, who knew freedom requires an incredibly strong defense. And they were prepared to commit to that.
Both documents reject arbitrary distinctions, with Israel’s declaration guaranteeing, quote, “the full social and political equality of all its citizens without distinction of race, creed, or sex . . . [and the] full freedom of conscience, worship, education, and culture . . .”
It’s these shared values that bind Americans and Israelis together, and brings us together to celebrate tonight.
Since Israel’s declaration was issued in 1948, the Jewish State – in the face of so many challenges that we all know – has developed into an inspiring example of a free, democratic, and prosperous nation. Its population has exploded to more than 9 million citizens today.
I had the chance to meet a number of those men and women over my time in service, in Congress, and now. I met some with my wife Susan just this past March when we were there.
I met some of the most amazing people, one of them being your current prime minister in Israel. I had the chance to visit him at the Western Wall.
I was truly honored to go there to that special place with him on the day that President Trump boldly recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. (Applause.) It was remarkable to be there as the first senior American to have gone to the Western Wall alongside an Israeli prime minister.
And as you all know, and as Ambassador Dermer recounted, it was just one of the many things that this Administration has done to stand with Israel. We certainly know of the announcement with respect to our embassy.
We’ve bolstered Israel’s security too by applying maximum pressure against the single greatest threat to stability and security in the Middle East, and indeed, stability and security in Israel – the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We’ve pushed back hard too. And this is important – we’ve pushed back hard too against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, and will continue to oppose it wherever it raises its ugly head.
We are unleashing a fight against anti-Semitism, a growing problem across much of the world, including sadly right here in the United States.
I think the most important thing that you all should take away from these actions by this Administration is that they are instinctive, they are reflexive, and they are right. And we do them because of that, because they are in the best interest of both of our peoples.
I had an opportunity in London just now a handful of days ago. I was honored to be the first U.S. Secretary of State to meet with the archbishop of Canterbury. Along with other senior religious leaders, we talked about the risk of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom and how we can work together to combat that scourge.
Lastly, a brief word. The White House has a vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which we will unveil this summer. It offers an opportunity, although no guarantee, that we hope we can have a brighter future for the Palestinian people.
I’ll close by returning to David Ben-Gurion. After reading the declaration back in 1948, he was careful to ensure that a copy of it was placed safely in a deposit box – just in case.
He was certainly smart to do so. But I think he’d be pleased to know that that document’s greatest repository has been in the Israeli people themselves – just as the greatest guardians of Jefferson’s work are Americans past and present.
Today, individual liberty, democratic self-governance, and national sovereignty are the cornerstones of our two societies. And along with our Judeo-Christian heritage, they underlie our countries’ permanent excellent relationship.
I’m confident that this will continue into the future.
And I want to say to all here tonight, happy Independence Day. Thank you for being here. And may God bless you all, Israel, and the United States of America. Thank you.