Thank you, Prime Minister Netanyahu. I want to thank you and Sara for hosting us for what has been an unforgettable visit to this very special land. I also want to thank Chairman Itzik Molko, Acting Director Ayellet Shilloh-Tamir, and Chief Operating Officer Dalia Lazar, for hosting us today in this incredible museum. And thank you, Ambassador and Mrs. Friedman for joining us, along with a number of very good friends who have come from our country to yours as we reaffirm the unshakable bond between the United States and Israel.
It is a privilege to stand here in this national museum, in the ancient city of Jerusalem, to address the Israeli people – and all people in the Middle East who yearn for security, prosperity and peace.
Jerusalem is a sacred city. Its beauty, splendor, and heritage are like no other place on earth.
The ties of the Jewish people to this Holy Land are ancient and eternal. They date back thousands of years, including the reign of King David whose star now flies proudly on Israel’s white and blue flag.
Yesterday, I visited the Western Wall, and marveled at the monument to God’s presence and man’s perseverance – I was humbled to place my hand upon the wall and to pray in that holy space for wisdom from God.
I also visited and prayed at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a site revered by Christians throughout the world. I laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, honoring, remembering, and mourning the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. I pledged there what I pledge again to those here today: NEVER AGAIN.
Israel is a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people. From all parts of this great country, one message resounds: and that is the message of hope.
Down through the ages, the Jewish people have suffered persecution, oppression and even those who have sought their destruction. But, through it all, they have endured – and they have thrived.
I stand in awe of the accomplishments of the Jewish People, and I make this promise to you: My Administration will always stand with Israel.
Through your hardships, you have created one of the most abundant lands in the world. A land that is rich not only in history, culture, and opportunity, but especially in spirit.
This museum where we are gathered today tells the story of that spirit – from the two Holy Temples, to the glorious heights of Masada, we see an incredible story of faith and perseverance. That faith is what inspired Jews to believe in their destiny, to overcome their despair, and to build here a future that others dared not to dream.
In Israel, not only are Jews free to till the soil, teach their children, and pray to God in the ancient land of their forefathers. But Muslims, Christians, and people of all faiths, and both men and women, are free to live and worship according to their conscience, and to follow their dreams.
While evil forces seeks to kill innocents of all faiths, your nation has responded with compassion, charity, and generosity.
Today, gathered with friends, I call upon all people – Jews, Christians, Muslims, and every faith, tribe, and creed – to draw inspiration from this ancient city, to set aside our sectarian differences, to overcome oppression and hatred, and to give all children the freedom and hope and dignity written into our souls.
Earlier this week, I spoke at a historic summit in Saudi Arabia. There, I urged our friends in the Muslim world to join us in creating stability, safety and security. I was deeply encouraged by the desire of many leaders to join us in cooperation toward these shared and vital goals. Conflict cannot continue forever – the only question is when nations will decide that they have had enough.
That historic summit represents a new opportunity for people throughout the Middle East to overcome sectarian and religious divisions to extinguish the fires of extremism, and find common ground and shared responsibility in making the future of this region. Change must come from within.
No mother or father wants their children to grow up in a world where terrorists roam free, schoolchildren are murdered, and their loved ones are taken. No child is born with prejudice in their heart. No one should teach young boys and girls to hate and kill.
And no civilized nation can tolerate the massacre of innocents with chemical weapons.
My message to that summit was the same message I have for you: We must build a coalition of partners who share the aim of stamping out extremism and violence – and providing our children a peaceful and hopeful future.
But a hopeful future for children in the Middle East requires the world to fully recognize the vital role of the state of Israel.
And, on behalf of the United States, we pledge to stand by you and defend our shared values so that together we can defeat terrorism and create safety for all of God’s children.
Israelis have experienced firsthand the hatred and terror of radical violence. Israelis are murdered by terrorists wielding knifes and bombs. Hamas and Hezbollah launch rockets into Israeli communities where schoolchildren have to be trained to hear the sirens and run to bomb shelters. ISIS targets Jewish neighborhoods, synagogues, and storefronts. And Iran’s leaders routinely call for Israel’s destruction.
Despite these challenges, Israel is thriving as a sovereign nation – and no international body should question the contributions Israel makes to the region.
Today, let us pray for that peace – and for a more hopeful future across the Middle East.
There are those who present a false choice. They say that we must choose between supporting Israel and supporting Arab and Muslim nations in the region. That is completely wrong. All decent people want to live in peace, and all humanity is threatened by the evils of terrorism. Diverse nations can unite around the goal of protecting innocent life, upholding human dignity, and promoting peace and stability in the region. My Administration is committed to pursuing such a coalition, and we have already made substantial progress during this trip.
We know, for instance, that both Israelis and Palestinians seek lives of hope for their children. And we know that peace is possible if we put aside the pain and disagreements of the past and commit together to finally resolving this crisis which has dragged on for nearly half century.
As I have repeatedly said, I am personally committed to helping Israelis and Palestinians reach that mutual commitment comprehensive peace agreement, and I had a great meeting this morning with President Mahmoud Abbas and I can tell you that he is ready to reach a peace deal.
Making peace will not be easy. We all know that. Both sides will face tough decisions. But with determination, compromise on both sides, and the belief that peace is possible, Israelis and Palestinians can make a deal. But even as we work toward peace, we will build strength to defend our nations.
The United States is firmly committed to keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and halting their support of terrorists and militias that are causing so much suffering and chaos throughout the Middle East.
America’s security partnership with Israel is stronger than ever – including the Iron Dome missile defense program, which has been keeping the Israeli people safe from short-range rockets launched by Hezbollah and Hamas. And David’s sling which guards against long range missiles. It is my hope that someday very soon Israeli children will never need to rush towards shelter, as sirens ring out.
Finally, the United States is proud that Israeli Air Force pilots are flying new American F-35 planes to defend their nation, and it was wonderful to see these mighty aircraft in the skies over Israel recently as you celebrated the 69th anniversary of Israel’s independence.
But even as we strengthen our partnership in practice, let us always remember our highest ideals – let us never forget that the bond between our two nations is woven together in the hearts of our people – and their love of freedom, hope, and dignity for all.
Let us dream of a future where Jewish, Muslim and Christian children can grow up together and live together in trust, harmony, tolerance and respect.
Israel is a thriving nation – and has not only uplifted this region, but the entire world.
The conviction of Theodor Herzl rings true today: “whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.”
As we stand in Jerusalem, we see pilgrims of all faiths coming to this land to walk on this hallowed ground.
Jews place the prayers from their hearts in the stone blocks of the Western Wall.
Christians pray in the pews of an ancient church.
Muslims answer the call to prayer at their holy sites.
This city, like no other place in the world, reveals the longing of the human heart – to know and worship God.
Jerusalem stands as a reminder that life can flourish against any odds.
When we look around this city, and we see people of all faiths engaged in reverent worship, and school children learning side-by-side, and men and women lifting up the needy and forgotten, we see that God’s promise of healing has brought goodness to so many lives. We see that the people of this land had the courage to overcome the oppression and injustice of the past – and to live in the freedom God intends for every person on this earth.
Today, in Jerusalem, we pray and we hope that children around the world will soon be able to live without fear, to dream without limits, and to prosper without violence. I ask this land of promise to join with me to fight our common enemies, to pursue our shared values, and to protect the dignity of every child of God.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the State of Israel. And God bless the United States.