Kevin McCarthy

Address to the Knesset of Israel

delivered 1 May 2023, Jerusalem, Israel


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Speaker Ohana, Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Herzog, Opposition Leader Lapid, Ministers of Government, Members of the Knesset, my congressional colleagues, distinguished guests, and beloved friends:

It is an honor to join you in the city of Jerusalem -- the eternal capital of Israel. This is my very first trip overseas as a U.S. House Speaker of the Representatives [sic]. There is no place Iíd rather be than right here, right now with my dear friends, all of you.

Today, I speak to you not only as [an] American congressional leader. I speak to you today as a lifelong supporter and a true friend of Israel. I am no stranger to your beautiful land. Since coming to Congress in 2007, I have traveled to Israel, year after year, with hundreds of my colleagues from both sides of the aisle. And today is no different. I am here today, as many times as before, with good friend Steny Hoyer and a bipartisan group of Members. (If you would all stand.)

And I choose to celebrate today the bond between our two countries, and to reaffirm [that] the bipartisan support for Israel in Congress is at the foundation for our truly special relationship. I begin with words that every person in this chamber will recognize:

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people...After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith [with it throughout their Dispersion] and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration [in] it of their political freedom.

Those inspiring words come from your Declaration of Independence. The prayers and hopes it spoke of have become a reality today.

Today, we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Israel. Over the past three quarters of [a] century, your nation has faced many external threats. But Israel survives and thrives because of its values, courage, resilience, and determination.

But as your Declaration reminds us, 75 years is just a blip in the timeline of Israel. There's no other nation with your long [and] storied history. Thirty-five hundred years ago, Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and then back to the Promised Land. Three thousand years ago, David reigned as the King of Israel. And soon after, Davidís son, King Solomon, consecrated the First Temple. That temple was destroyed, but its spirit of freedom and faith remains.

We see that spirit in the state of Israel today. Israel is resilient. It is strong. Israel is innovative. Israel is blessed. Israel endures. "The Lord [bless] you from Zion;" and "may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life." Indeed, "may you see your childrenís children -- peace be upon Israel," as [King] David has written.1

It was President John F. Kennedy who said it best: "Israel was not created in order to disappear -- Israel will endure and flourish...It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success."2 Kennedyís words echo throughout this chamber today.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Israelís rebirth is nothing less than a modern miracle -- and I thank you for it. The source of that miracle is the people of Israel. In those dark days thousands of years ago when the Jewish people were scattered from Israel, the Prophet Isaiah predicted a brighter future to come. Inspired by God, he shared this command: "Arise, shine; [for] thy light [is] come, [and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee]."3 My friends, today, 75 years after declaring independence, Israel[ís] lights shine brighter than ever before.

Despite the constant threat of terrorism, Israel remains a thriving democracy in the Middle East. Israelís economy once relied on rationing food and oil. Today, Israel is ranked as the 4th best performing economy among developing [sic] nations. Its market economy is dynamic, and its remarkable people are bursting with talent and ideas. Its innovative high-tech sector has rightfully earned the nickname that Israel has: the "Start-up Nation."

It was Theodor [Herzl], the founder of modern Zionism, who predicted: Give us a piece of land to hold on to, and the rest we will do ourselves.
4 Herzl was right. The story of Israel is a story of survival against the perils of war and terrorism. Itís a story of pioneers fulfilling a sacred promise, inspired by a commitment to freedom, to family, to faith in God.5 It is a story about making the deserts bloom and building a thriving, innovative economy. And it is a story of hope that continues to inspire millions around the world, especially me and my fellow Americans, regardless of our political party.

The United States cherishes this unbreakable bond with Israel. Iím proud that my country recognized your country 11 minutes after it declared it declared its independence, the first country to do so.6

But our special relationship is even closer. It's more personal and more powerful than we might even realize. You know, this point was driven home to me last night by a very thoughtful gift from your Speaker, Ohana. It was a gift of a picture of a story I did not know, of [an] Israeli pilot training in the city of Bakersfield, California -- where I was born, where I was raised, where I live, where I represent.

There's a story behind this picture, though. More than 75 years ago, on the eve of [Israelís] War of Independence, a female flight instructor and a patriot named Elynor Rudnick organized a training program for Israeli fighter pilots at her airfield in Bakersfield, California. Now, in all there was only 13 volunteers, including two women, who took this [grueling] course. Only three finished.

Now, technically the program was illegal because Israel didn't exist as a modern state; and America was neutral. But why? Why did these pilots do it? What compelled them to risk their lives to help reestablish the state of Israel? As we look around this room, we know the answer. We all know it: It was faith and it was freedom. Those values are worth fighting for, and even dying for -- and especially today. And so, they took to the skies -- not knowing what the future would hold, but knowing that God and million [many] Americans were their allies in this cause.

They won. Despite all odds, they won. And because they won, the state of Israel was reborn. Seventy-five years have passed since those heroes helped secure Israelís independence. Most has [had] only recently graduated from school. At the time, the joys and struggles of life were just ahead of them. And now, while they rest in peace, their sacrifice and legacies live on in a free and independent Israel -- and its special bond with the United States.

You see, this picture tells us a deeper story. If we remain united, then the forces of freedom and democracy will always prevail. This is the foundation of our special relationship: We are the only two countries in history that were conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are equal.

Our values are your values.

Our heritage is your heritage.

Our dreams are your dreams.

America is grateful for our friendship with Israel. We are a better nation because of it. And we must never shy away from defending it. We have come so far in 75 years. But the promise of years ahead is just as compelling. I believe the best days for Israel -- and our unbreakable bond -- are ahead of us.

My greatest hope is that our special relationship can serve as the foundation for greater peace across the Middle East. The progress towards peace in the past few years has simply been remarkable. Thanks to the Abraham Accords, coexistence and cooperation are beginning to replace conflict and intolerance. As a result, a future where your children can enjoy a just and lasting peace is not only foreseeable, it is attainable.

Congress has supported the dramatic breakthroughs of the [Abraham] Accords. Last week, we passed a bipartisan resolution celebrating the [your] 75th Anniversary [and] commending the Abraham Accords as well. I actually have that resolution with me right here -- and signed. Now, it states in absolute terms that the U.S. stands with Israel, supports the Abraham Accords, and upholds that Israel has the right to defend itself. My friends, Congress stands ready to work with Israel to broaden and deepen those Accords -- working for sustainable peace with all of Israelís neighbors.

But as we welcome peace, we cannot ignore the threats to peace in our region. Those threats have one primary cause: the rogue Iranian regime. Most of the turmoil in this region of violence and instability can be traced back to that source -- which continues to fund terrorism, arms its proxy militias, and pursues nuclear weapons. Iran seeks to destabilize Iraq. It wants to entrench missiles in Syria. It empowers the terrorist organization Hezbollah in Lebanon. And it is fueling a brutal civil war in Yemen. And among [amid] all this aggression, it seeks to encircle Israel with hostile forces.

We cannot allow [the] Iran regime['s] evil campaign to succeed. To deter -- To deter Iranís dangerous behavior, our nations must continue to stand together. We, the United States, [integrated] Israel into our Central Command and are continuing to carry out military exercises together. As long as I am Speaker, America will continue to support fully funding for security assistance [sic] in Israel. Together, we will defeat Iranís precision-guided missiles, their drones, their terror tunnels, and cyberattacks. As we stand shoulder to shoulder against Iranís regional aggression, we must always remain resolute in our commitment that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon.

As we pursue peace in this region, we must also expand the economic cooperation between our two countries. In our systems of innovation and creativity are our greatest allies [sic], our greatest sources of strength, our greatest fuel for prosperity. For decades, our nations have worked together on agricultural research, clean energy, new technologies, cyber defense, and so much more.

To strengthen our command of the next generation of technology, Congress established a working group for bilateral military research and development in 2021. This will allow us to benefit from each otherís innovation, especially in military technology. Weíve seen successes of technological cooperation in so many areas.

Today, however, our innovation is at risk from a new threat: the Chinese Communist Party. While the CCP may disguise itself as promoters of innovation, in truth they act like thieves. We must not allow them to steal our technology. In the United States, we are working to protect innovation and the prosperity with which it renews focus [sic].

You know, we have a review process called the Committee of [on] Foreign Investment in the United States, or as we refer to it as CFIUS. I want to thank you and I'm glad that Israel has [also] put into place a process to review foreign investments. I strongly encourage Israel to further strengthen its oversight of foreign investment -- particularly Chinese investment -- building on the steps that you first took in 2019. If we cooperate, then [I am] confident we will meet the challenge and ensure a brighter future for both of our nations.

The final priority for the future I want to discuss is ending efforts to delegitimize and discriminate against Israel. Whether itís the toxic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement or the constant attacks of [on] Israel at the United Nations, prejudice against Israel on the world stage is damaging and destructive. There is no clearer example than the U.N. [Human] Rights Council -- which has passed over 90 anti-Israeli resolutions since 2006. Yet they have turned a blind eye to true human rights violations by Iran, North Korea, and China. My colleagues and I in Congress will continue to stand with Israel. And we will increase the pressure on the United Nations to end these outrageous attacks.

As we take the next steps in enhancing and bolstering our ongoing diplomatic and security dialogues, I want Congress and the Knesset to work [as] close as possible together. As Speaker, I will continue to push for a formal Inter-parliamentarian [parliamentary] Group between the United States and Israel. But I do not want to wait to start that collaboration between the House of Representatives and you, the Knesset.

Therefore, today, I will establish a House-Knesset Parliamentary Friendship Group -- so we can continue the strength of our bonds and build mutual understanding as elected representatives, and work better together -- democracy to democracy. We will engage more directly with the Knesset, travel to Israel to strengthen existing relationships and forge new ones. Similarly, we will host Knesset Members who wish to travel to the United States to do the same in Congress. This will be part of a new chapter of U.S.-Israel relations, and I look forward to working closer with you Speaker, Ohana, in this endeavor.

Now, let me close with this. The rebirth of Israel is truly a miracle. Peace, liberty, and prosperity are the foundations of our nations' success. They are also the cornerstone of our special relationship. Our special relationship stands for freedom. It stands for safety. It stands for hope.

Together, let us work to move forward towards a brighter future. Together, we will work to build a world in which our children live in more peace, enjoy a more robust economic ties [sic], and are treated with the respect and fairness they deserve. This is our shared mission. I look forward to working with you as we strengthen this unique and indispensable bond.

God bless you.

God bless Israel.

God bless America.

And God bless our special relationship -- for the next 75 years.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Psalms 128:5-6 (NIV)

2 Extended quotation: "Time will judge whether Israel will continue to exist. But I wish I could be as sure of all my prophecies as I am of my flat prediction that Israel is here to stay. For Israel was not created in order to disappear -- Israel will endure and flourish. It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom; and no area of the world has ever had an overabundance of democracy and freedom." [Source:]

3 Isaiah: 60:1 (KJV)

4 Herzl's actual quotation in The Jewish State (1896) is worth reviewing for its measured eloquence: "Let the sovereignty be granted us over a portion of the globe large enough to satisfy the rightful requirements of a nation; the rest we shall manage for ourselves." [Source:]

5 Asyndeton

6 As a matter of defacto recognition, the claim is correct. However, the events pertaining to Israel's declaration of independence and of the U.S.'s subsequent recognition of that declaration are, unsurprisingly, subject to nuanced interpretations. See here and here for primers.

Original Text Source:

Text Note; Supplemental transcription work by Michael E. Eidenmuller

Audio Note: Digitally filtered and enhanced

Page Updated: 6/26/23

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