Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave brief remarks at the celebration of Israel's 61st Independence Day this evening at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium. Below are the Speaker's remarks as prepared:
“Thank you for that kind introduction, Ambassador [Sallai] Meridor. As many of you know, Ambassador Meridor and Mrs. [Noa] Meridor are returning home at the end of this month. We have all benefited from your service to your nation, and ours.
“Last year, when I travelled to Israel, I was proud to present the Knesset with a resolution from the Congress of the United States congratulating the state of Israel of its 60th anniversary of independence.
“In Congress, we speak in one voice for the state of Israel.
“We believe that the creation of Israel stands out as one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century. We also believe that the 21st century will be one of continued partnership and friendship between the United States and Israel.
“Those were the thoughts I conveyed to Prime Minister Netanyahu when I spoke to him this afternoon. I shared my great optimism for the future for Israel, and my gratitude today, on the 61st anniversary of this founding, for the symbol of hope that Israel is for people around the world.
“We pay tribute to the many people, who with pioneering spirits, brave determination, and deep commitment, made the modern state of Israel a reality. We recognize that far too many have been forced to sacrifice far too much.
“Chief among those who have made terrible sacrifices are Gilad Shalit and his family. This week I will meet with Gilad's father, Noam, in the United States Capitol.
“More than two years ago, Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud Goldwasser, gave me copies of her husband's dog tags, as well as those of Eldad Regev and Gilad Shalit. I have taken these dog tags with me around the world; I have shown them to heads of state and to visitors in the Speaker's office.
“I will hold onto them as a symbol of the sacrifices made - sacrifices far too great - for peace and security for the state of Israel. And I will also continue my efforts and my prayers for Gilad Shalit.
“In America's partnership with Israel, we have both given support and we have drawn strength. We share a common history - nations founded to be beacons of democracy, forged by pioneers, and fulfilled by immigrants in search of a better tomorrow.
“We also share a common cause - a safe and secure Israel, living in peace with her neighbors.”