Thank you, Amy Friedkin, for your generous introduction, for your friendship, and for your ongoing leadership, now and as a past President of AIPAC.
“Tonight, it is a true honor to be here with the leader of the Jewish state of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I will never forget the great honor of visiting the Prime Minister in his Jerusalem office last May, where he took great pride in showing us an ancient seal–an artifact dating back 2,700 years, found in recent excavations right next to the Western Wall. It was inscribed with the name ‘Netanyahu’ in Hebrew–a direct connection to the history of the Jewish people.
“Yesterday, you honored the extraordinary career of a true visionary, a legend of history, and a founder of the Jewish state, President Shimon Peres. I join you in celebrating his life. He helped establish the state of Israel–which many of us consider one of the greatest political achievements of the 20th century. He has dedicated his life to the cause of peace ever since–a pursuit that continues to this day. The United States, Israel, and the world are better off for the leadership of President Peres.
“We all congratulate President Peres on yesterday’s announcement that President Obama will honor him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“Aren’t we happy that this year, as we come together, Gilad Shalit is free and home with his family? But we must never forget Eldad Regev, Ehud Goldwasser, and all of the missing or captured Israeli soldiers.
“I’m pleased to be here with Senate Republican Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell. Our appearance tonight reaffirms that in Congress, we speak with one voice in support of Israel.
“Congratulations to AIPAC’s new President Michael Kassen, Chairman Lee Rosenberg, Executive Director Howard Kohr, and all of the leaders of AIPAC on organizing another outstanding Policy Conference. More than 13,000-strong this year, all of the delegates and community activists here are effective voices on behalf of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.
“Let us all recognize the future leaders for our nation and the U.S.-Israel relationship–our students! I especially want to acknowledge the delegation from my home state of California!
“Thank you, AIPAC, for your support of foreign aid. Your efforts go farther than support for Israel: anyone who cares about the alleviation of poverty and the eradication of hunger and disease across the globe owes AIPAC a debt of gratitude for your strong advocacy of foreign aid.
“The last time I spoke to you, I talked about my Jewish grandchildren. Tonight, I want to talk about another member of my family. Nearly 70 years ago, a Congressman from Baltimore took to the floor of the House to call on his colleagues and our allies to ensure the safety, security, and future of the Jewish community in Europe. Later, at the height of the Holocaust, he declared that the land then known as ‘Palestine must be kept open as a haven to the Jewish people.’ And once World War II ended and before the establishment of Israel, he noted that the Jewish community ‘can find no peace in the places they once called home.’ That Congressman was my father, Thomas D’Alesandro. He was early to stand strong for a people persecuted for who they were, and he was early to stand firm for the cause of a Jewish state.
“His calls of conscience and principle were part of a lifelong commitment to the people of Israel–a commitment he passed down to his children. My brother, the former Mayor of Baltimore, Thomas D’Alesandro, has a sports stadium named for him outside of Haifa in recognition of his unwavering support for the Jewish state. This same commitment is one I share to this day. For our family, Israel has always been a special place; for America, Israel has always stood as a beacon of hope, a partner in democracy, and an ally in the fight for security.
“From Israel’s founding through the present day, our pledge remains the same: Israel and America are friends and partners, now and forever.
“Our bonds of friendship are founded on the theme of this year’s Policy Conference: ‘Shared Values, Shared Vision.’ Our shared commitment to security and our desire for peace. The drive to perfect the world and the pursuit of justice and the common good. The belief in democracy, in embracing the rights of free expression and a free press, in respecting the rights of women.
“For more than six decades, this has been the foundation for our unwavering promise: the U.S.-Israel relationship is unbreakable; and the United States’ commitment to a secure Jewish state is unshakable.
“If our friendship were rooted only in shared values and shared vision, it could easily be said: ‘Dayeinu’–‘that would have been enough.’ But our friendship goes far deeper. It is a friendship not just of words, but of deeds–and in Congress, those deeds have meant tangible results for Israel’s security.
“Our actions rest on a strong pledge: our mutually-beneficial aid to Israel must, and will, remain a top priority for the United States Congress. That is why we acted, under Democratic leadership, to codify our countries’ Memorandum of Understanding–to invest $30 billion in Israel’s defense over 10 years. That is why we will continue to expand on our work to restore, preserve, and strengthen Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge with record levels of aid and investment in the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow missile defense systems.
“We will build on what American and Israeli defense leaders have hailed as an era of unprecedented cooperation in intelligence sharing and military exercises. In a time of regional instability and uncertainty among Israel’s neighbors, we will always stand strong for Israel’s security.