You are here

Pelosi Address to Israeli Knesset

Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered a major address today to the Israeli Knesset.  She discussed America's commitment to Israel and the challenges facing the two nations in the Middle East.  Below are her remarks as prepared:

'Madame Speaker, Members of Knesset, Cabinet Ministers, Supreme Court Justices and Honored Guests.  Thank you.

'Speaker Itzik, I am deeply honored to accept your invitation to address this great democratic body.  I salute you for your achievements as the Knesset's first woman Speaker.

'I stand with you tonight, conscious of all that you and I owe to the hopes and dreams of generations of Israeli and American women.  I think especially of Golda Meir, the stateswoman, leader, mother, and grandmother whose legacy we both share.

'Thank you for the opportunity to bring a message from the House of Representatives - which we call the people's house - to this distinguished body and to the Israeli people.

'There is an unshakable bond between America and Israel that grows out of our past and the fundamental values we share.  That bond forms the foundation of our efforts for peace, for democracy, for human freedom.  The bond between our nations points the way to the future - a democratic Israel at peace with her neighbors.  That is essential for the stability that this region desires.  And the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit of both our nations is essential for the future all our citizens deserve.

'We remember the oldest roots of our friendship today.  We stand here in the City of Jerusalem, a home to the world's three major religions.  We stand at the threshold of one of the holiest weeks in the Judeo-Christian calendar.  Palm Sunday is ending and Passover is about to begin.  In this moment, Jews and Christians alike celebrate the possibility of human redemption from slavery into freedom.

''Open for me the gates of righteousness,' we sing in one of the season's best-loved Psalms, 'I will enter and give thanks to God.'

'The journey toward freedom and peace is a journey of faith, a journey of hope, a journey of a lifetime or more.  It is a journey our deepest values command us to undertake.

'When Americans look at Israel, we see the hope and promise of that journey.  The creation of Israel stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, and as a beacon of hope to the world.  President Truman's role in recognizing the new state just 11 minutes after its proclamation is a source of pride for Americans. 

'Forty years ago another American President, John F. Kennedy, summed up what binds Americans to Israel today when he said that Israel 'is the child of hope and the home of the brave.  It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.'

'Americans have many political differences, but we stand united with Israel now and always.  One example of that is the bipartisan Congressional delegation here with me tonight.  We speak with one voice, in support of a secure Jewish state of Israel living in peace with her neighbors.'

'Let me take a moment to recognize them: Delegation Co-Chairman David Hobson; Chairman Tom Lantos, with whom I share representation of the great city of San Francisco; Chairman Henry Waxman; Chairman Nick Rahall; Chairwomen Louise Slaughter; Chairman Robert Wexler; and I am especially proud that our delegation includes Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first American Muslim elected to Congress.

'We are all honored to be here, and we are honored to be with Karnit Goldwasser, who has given the world the priceless gift of her courage.  When I met her in Washington last month with Speaker Itzik, I was struck by the fact that she should be enjoying a young marriage but instead is traveling the world for her husband's sake, Ehud Goldwasser.

'We are honored to be here with the families of Israel's kidnapped and missing soldiers. We must not forget any of them.

'In the last year three more were kidnapped:  Ehud Goldwasser, Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit.  I display their identification tags in the Speaker's office, and I carry them with me today.  We must not rest until they are home.  We will mention this to the president of Syria.

'Americans know what it is to be brave in battle, and what it takes to be strong at home.  Respect for Israel's courage and strength has bound our nations together since Israel's earliest days - something I remember from my own childhood and the tradition in which I was raised.

'In 1947, a ship bound for Tel Aviv set sail from Baltimore, my native city, with a crew of young American volunteers.  History remembers this ship as the Exodus 47.  Its mission was to bring war survivors from the camps of Europe to live in Israel.  It was one of the first times that Americans made Israel's cause our own.

'At that time, my father was a Congressman and later Mayor of Baltimore.  His support for a Jewish state began when he was one of a small number of Congressmen who lobbied Presidents Roosevelt and Truman first to do more to rescue Jews in Europe and later to support the creation of Israel

'I was fascinated to learn of Israel as a child through the Bible, where God spoke from a burning bush about a magical 'land flowing with milk and honey.'

'I remember vividly learning about the state of Israel when my parents' friends Simon and Irene Sobeloff came home from a visit to Israel shortly after Israel's birth as a nation.

'The Sobeloffs visited our home and regaled us with magnificent tales about this glorious new country in the desert where courageous trailblazers were founding a democratic nation in their historic homeland.  As a little girl, I was drawn to the stories of turning sand dunes to orange groves, draining swamps to create farmland, and creating cities where before there had been none.

'And, with their stories, the Sobeloffs brought me a ring, which I just adored.  It helped create an everlasting bond for me with Israel.

'Our shared history and ideals unite us in the challenging present.  For this reason, America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakable. 

'Israel faces existential threats that are also threats to America.  We must track down terrorists at their sources; to protect our citizens, homes and businesses.  We must counter the terrorists' vision of apocalypse and despair with our own clear pathway toward hope and dignity.  We must do this with strength but also with wisdom. 

Hezbollah

'Together, we must make sure that no more rockets rain down on Israel from Lebanon in the north.  We must ensure a future in which parents can send their children to school and families can venture to markets without fear. 

'It has been almost nine months since Hezbollah's unprovoked attack on Israel.  Yet, Hezbollah continues to violate the U.N. resolution that set conditions to end the violence.  The 10,000 U.N. troops must be successful in preventing the shipments of weapons and supplies allowing Hezbollah to rearm.  International forces in Lebanon must implement the U.N. resolution effectively. 

'Hezbollah must be disarmed.

Iran

'And together, we must have a simple message for Tehran, whose support of Hezbollah is well known.  Iran must not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.  The time to leverage all our power is now, and the way to do it is through diplomacy - with stronger sanctions and smarter policy choices. 

'Under Chairman Tom Lantos' leadership, the U.S. Congress is moving to put additional pressure on Iran by expanding and tightening our sanctions regime.  I am certain that our Administration will use all of its influence with Security Council members and states in the region to see that they do the same.

'Iran is not just an Israeli problem or a regional problem.  Iran is a problem for the world. 

Iraq

'In Iraq, we must move the war beyond the unstable status quo because instability in Iraq serves only the interests of our enemies.

'We in Congress have a particular responsibility to make it clear that peace in Iraq must come first and foremost from the political choices of Iraqis.  Even a military with the capabilities of the United States cannot create political consensus where none exists.

'We in Congress will do everything in our power to seek a policy that makes the United States and our friends safer and the region more stable by sharing the responsibility for Iraq's stability with Iraqis and their neighbors.

'Together, we must look to the future.

'Israeli democracy is one of the cornerstones of a more stable and democratic Middle East.  But that hopeful vision begins with a hard recognition: we all know that we cannot have peace without security, but we also cannot have security without peace.

'I am concerned that some of those in the new Palestinian government remain committed to the destruction of Israel.

'But I believe that the majority of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans share our commitment to a future for Israel and the Palestinian people living side by side in peace and security. 

'Talking with responsible Palestinian partners is a wise investment in Israel's future.  I know all of my Congressional colleagues join me in welcoming the agreement announced by Secretary Rice that Prime Minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas will meet regularly.

'The United States, as Israel's trusted friend and ally, has an irreplaceable role to play in achieving a lasting peace.  The United States must have sustained high level engagement in the region to bring us closer to the day we all long for - when the entire Palestinian government is ready for peace. 

Innovation

'Our efforts toward peace are part of a rich web of ties between our nations, ties that make not just the desert but a generation bloom. 

'Americans and Israelis are pioneers and visionaries - our nations were built by people for whom obstacles like oceans, mountains, and deserts were the journey's beginning, not its end.

'Israeli expertise and technology are helping protect cities and airports across America.  Israeli medical technology saves the lives of American soldiers on the battlefield.  Americans with reflux disease are diagnosed by a camera-in-a-pill developed here.

'And American leaders in technology and biotechnology are exchanging their expertise in the global market with Israeli entrepreneurs with stunning results.

'But I believe we can and will do more to build even stronger Israeli-American partnership for innovation in areas like alternative energy that are crucial to the future of both our countries.

'From the negotiating table to the operating table, from the joy of a little girl's ring to the sadness of a missing soldier's dog tags, we find proofs of our deep friendship in the most unexpected places.

'Another one of these places is outside Haifa, where there is a soccer stadium that many of you know as Kiryat Haim.  I understand that it has seen better days, but it used by children everyday and has a special place in the hearts of many Israelis.  Older Israelis remember its glory days hosting top Haifa teams.  Thousands of younger Israelis themselves learned to play there or follow the careers of star players, Jews and Arabs alike, who got their start there.

'That stadium has a place in my heart as well.  In 1968, it was named for my brother Thomas D'Alesandro, who, as mayor of Baltimore, carried on my father's support of Israel.

'It is a great source of pride to our family that our name is shared with such a beloved Israeli institution.  It is one of the reasons it is easy for me to represent America's love for the people of Israel.

'Tonight I thank you for the warmth of your hospitality and I applaud you for the example of your courage. 

'Madame Speaker, please accept my deepest appreciation for this opportunity to express America's commitment to Israel.  This occasion is one of the great joys of my life.

'America and Israel share a common history - nations founded to be beacons of democracy, forged by pioneers, fulfilled by immigrants.  We share a common future - as entrepreneurs and innovators, building the kind of world that we dream of for our children's children.  And we share a common cause - a safe and secure Israel living in peace with her neighbors.  Let us join together to recommit ourselves to the best of our heritage, and together look to the future

'Israel and the U.S., now and forever.  Thank you and Shalom.'