PM Netanyahu at US Independence Day celebrations. (Haim Zach/GPO) (Haim Zach/GPO)
PM Netanyahu at US Independence Day celebrations

Israel’s leadership celebrated American Independence Day and the close bonds shared by the two countries just ahead of the Fourth of July.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other Israeli leaders participated in American Independence Day celebrations at US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro’s residence in Herzliya on Wednesday, expressing congratulations and stressing the close and “unbreakable” bond between the two countries.

“This is a great day because on the 4th of July, all Israelis unite with our American brothers and sisters. It’s our celebration too,” stated Netanyahu. “That’s because the history of our two countries is remarkably intertwined. The Founding Fathers of America were inspired by the Bible, and specifically by the Book of the Exodus, by the dream of building freedom in a new Promised Land. And as you stand in the Chamber of the American Congress, you see right across you the image of one man – Moses – with a quote from the Bible.”

The Israeli leader continued to extol the heritage and values that both nations share, noting “the vision of justice and the vision of peace espoused by the Prophets of Israel” that motivated American leaders. “But just as our heritage inspired America, America inspired us. If you read the Founding Fathers of Zionism, you see how powerful and inspirational the American Revolution was – the ideas of freedom and liberty.”

Israel, he continued, is an island of freedom in a Middle East “plagued by tyranny” in which “majorities are oppressed. Minorities are persecuted. Women are subjugated. Gays are lynched. The press, if there is any, is muzzled. Yet in this turbulent and violent Middle East, Israel stands out as a beacon of freedom and human rights, with unfailing constancy, an island of democracy in a sea of despotism.”

Turning to current affairs, Netanyahu said the “Middle East is imploding all around us. States that have existed for a century are disintegrating. The forces of militant Islam are rushing to fill the void, the militant Sunnis led by ISIS, the militant Shiites led by Iran.”

He also pointed to the Iranian threat to Israel and to the US, saying, “for the mullahs that rule Tehran, Israel is the small Satan and America is the great Satan.”

“Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon, Iran’s worldwide campaign of terrorism and aggression must be stopped. So, too, must the campaign of ISIS, whose savagery is now sweeping the Middle East,” he stated.

“We must stand up to all the forces of militant Islam, those led by Iran, those led by ISIS,” Netanyahu asserted, apparently in reference to the nuclear negotiations with Iran. “We should not strengthen one or the other. We should weaken both of them. And as we do this, we will continue our quest for a durable and secure peace with the Palestinians, mindful that we must not let militant Islam gain another foothold.”

Netanyahu 4th of July

US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and his wife Julie Fisher pose with PM Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin during a cocktail party for the 239th Independence Day of the USA. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Netanyahu expressed appreciation to US President Barack Obama, Congress and the people of America. “I want to thank them for their continual support of the State of Israel. Across the length and breadth of the United States, Americans of all stripes stand with the Jewish state. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again tonight: Israel has no better friend than America and America has no better friend than Israel.”

“On behalf of all Israelis, I wish all Americans a happy 4th of July. God bless Israel and God bless the United States of America,” the Israeli premier concluded.

“Our relationship is first and foremost an emotional one,” President Reuven Rivlin told the crowd. “Growing up in the years after the Second World War, when the world was divided between East and West and defined in terms of good versus evil, the ‘Stars and Stripes’ represented, in our eyes, freedom and progress – the American Dream, as we saw it. For the first time in centuries, perhaps for the first time in history, we, the Jewish nation, and later on the State of Israel, felt we had a true friend standing beside us.”