Sixty years ago on May 8th – or May 14th in our Western calendar – Israel declared independence. On this special day, when Jews and Christians, heads of state and others around the world celebrate the founding of the state of Israel, I want to reaffirm our commitment to Israel’s security and to the pursuit of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
This is why I cosponsored the Senate resolution recognizing Israel’s 60th birthday and reaffirming the close ties between the United States and Israel, a nation I’ve been privileged to visit as a congressman, a governor, a U.S. Senator and a father with his teenage son.
Current events threaten to overshadow the importance of this Independence Day: Prime Minister Olmert is being investigated, again. Another round of peace talks appear to have stalled, again. Hamas continues to launch Qassam rockets at Sderot and other towns near Gaza. Suicide bombings continue. Hezbollah has increased its military capability, with support from Syria and Iran.
And the leaders of Iran, the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the world, continue to call for Israel’s destruction, while denying that the Holocaust ever occurred.
These are enormous, complex challenges.
But, after seven wars in only 60 years, Israel has achieved remarkable, some would say miraculous, success, all the while having to fight for its existence everyday. Today is the day to express our fundamental pride in some of these successes.
For example, Israel’s population today is 7.3 million, more than nine times the 800,000 who lived there in 1948.
While Israel is the world capital of Torah-learning, it is also among the world’s leaders in high-tech, medical and scientific advances. In 1948, there were only two universities; today there are eight. Democratic institutions flourish. Both Jews and Arabs are serving in Parliament. Additionally, Israel has an independent, effective judiciary and a free press.
Today, I rise to join many of my colleagues in reaffirming the United States’ commitment to Israel’s security.
To the citizens of Israel, our message is simple and clear: We will continue to stand in solidarity with you. We are proud of what you have become.
Let me close with the words of Israeli President Shimon Peres, spoken only a few days ago: “Over the last 60 years, we have something that previous generations of Jews, those who were trampled in the pogroms and who were burned in the crematoria, did not have. The soldiers who fell created a miracle unparalleled in history: The miracle of the state of Israel…For 60 years, they fought in seven wars that were forced upon us, and that we won. They enabled us to establish an exemplary society, to be trailblazers in the world in… agriculture, medicine and defense, to be a peace-seeking people, a democratic state and a state that seeks justice.”