Treasurer of the state of Illinois, The Honorable Dan Rutherford,
Lt. Governor of Wisconsin, The Honorable Rebecca Kleefisch:
Thank you for your kind words and best wishes on this happy celebration of Israel Independence Day.
The state of Israel is 65 years old. This is a good time for stock-taking. So what have we accomplished in 65 years?
We have a state that started with 806,000 people and is today a home for more than 8 million people of which 80% are Jews and 20% Arabs.
A state that absorbed massive Jewish immigration from all over the world, from the former USSR and Ethiopia; from the Muslim and Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as from Europe and North and South America.
A state that made its desert, which constitutes 60% of the land, bloom.
State that developed, and continues to create, cutting edge technologies – starting with solar energy and water in the fifties leading to the new hi-tech frontiers of today.
A state that managed, against all odds, to build a very solid economy: In 2012 we had 3.2% growth rate in Real GDP, more than $30,000 GDP per capita, unemployment down to less than 7% and balanced trade– $90 billion in exports and $91 billion in imports.
A state that hosted last year more than 3.5 million tourists of which 650,000 were from the USA alone.
State that produces world class, award-winning culture in so many different fields – cinema and theatre, ballet and music, visual arts.
A state that is proud to have ten Nobel Prize laureates… and counting.
All this and many other achievements, that were not mentioned here today, were achieved due to what was described once by Winston Churchill as "Blood, sweat and tears". Our Blood, our sweat and our tears.
However, we do have important partners in this successful journey and I would like to single out two of those partners.
First, the United State of America. It took President Harry Truman only 11 minutes after Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the state of Israel, in the fifth of the Jewish month of Iyar, to announce the recognition and support of the USA of the young state and by this becoming the first state in the world to do so. Since then, for the last 65 years, The USA and Israel have managed to forge a model bilateral relationship which we call "The Special Relationship". It is special because unlike other bilateral relationships that lean usually on Mutual Interests, the relationship between the USA and Israel has two more pillars - Common Heritage and Shared Values.
Mutual Interests have always been an integral part of the equation since 1948 and they are more true and real today than ever. With one nation after another falling apart throughout the Middle East following what was once called the Arab Spring, it is clear why the US-Israel partnership must remain, as President Obama has said many times: unshakable and unbreakable. Israel was, is and will be an Island of stability within an ocean of instability.
Common Heritage – the Judeo-Christian tradition that shaped both the USA and the state of Israel: the Exodus from Egypt which was so significant for Jews, also resonated for the first people who came to America from Europe seeking religious freedom, as well as for the Civil Rights Movement. Also both nations share the tradition of pioneers pushing against the frontier to carve out a new nations.
Shared Values – Democracy (and here I am talking about a real bottom-up democracy. Not one in which you cast your vote once in four years and done). I am talking about Real democracy characterized by freedom of speech, a free press, religious tolerance and the rule of law; where minority rights and women's are protected. All those values and others are at the heart of both states. These rights and values are woven into the fabric of society here in the Midwest. However, except for Israel, they are still beyond the reach of most of the people in the Middle East.
Second in this list of partners are of course the Diaspora Jews, mainly the American Jews. Let it be clear – most of the achievements of the Jewish state would not have been possible without the support of the Jewish diaspora. The tremendous support we received from our brothers from all over the world through the last 65 years (and more) – financial support, moral support, political support, demographic support (i.e. – Aliya, immigration to Israel) – all those helped to make the state of Israel the Success story it is. Indeed, you are not only partners – you are share-holders!
Talking about the diaspora Jews I would like to mention one community that is a beacon of support to the state of Israel. The Jewish Community of Chicago led by the Jewish United Fund, is so strong, active and influential that it actually became a role model and a source of inspiration not only for other Jewish communities all over the world, but indeed for the State of Israel itself! As the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and each one of you – A friend in need is a friend indeed.
And yet there are still things to be achieved by the state of Israel. First of all is the peace. And I am not talking about the peace with the Palestinians. This should come second. First we have to achieve peace within the house, between Jews and Jews. In the last few years, the relationship between Ultra-Orthodox Jews and Non Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have deteriorated to a dangerous place. To some extent this has also influenced the relationship between the state of Israel and part of the diaspora. This is the time to meet this challenge. Before we turn to make peace with our cousins let's remember that peace with brothers should come first.
Once we establish peace within the tent it is time for us to achieve, once and for all, peace with our neighbors the Palestinians. Previous attempts to reach a common ground with the Palestinians have failed time after time sometimes leaving waves of violence behind. However, this should not deter us. The state of Israel succeeded, against all odds, to achieve peace agreements with both Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994). Indeed, an agreement with the Palestinians will be more complicated and challenging. However, we do not have the luxury to ignore this conflict that soon will be one hundred years old. For it is our responsibility to achieve a solution that will ensure our future as a Democratic and Jewish state to which Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion committed himself 65 years ago.
Happy Independence Day!