Israel is an island of stability in a turbulent region, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday.
Netanyahu was speaking during a Fourth of July reception at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.
"Dan, you have been an excellent Ambassador. I can say that from personal experience. And you’ve served as a bridge – a bridge between our two countries, and this was brilliantly demonstrated during President Obama's historic visit to Israel,” Netanyahu said.
“I want to add a request. Sara and I would like to send not only warm greetings to the President and First Lady Michelle Obama. We’d like to see Michelle in Israel as well.
“It's always a pleasure, and a deeply meaningful pleasure, to celebrate America's Independence Day.
“It’s true, July 4th is first and foremost an American holiday,” said Netanyahu. “It’s a time when Americans celebrate their freedom; it’s a time when they celebrate the cherished principles of American democracy.
“These are values we deeply share here in Israel,” he added. “In the Middle East, Israel has always been an island of stability and democracy in a sea of instability and despotism.
“This has always been true, but today, this is clearer than ever before,” said Netanyahu.
He stressed that “Israel will always remain America's steadfast and unwavering ally.
“We are allies, there’s a powerful bond between us.
“And the bond comes because of what has been said here tonight – because our deepest values are identical to those of the United States.
“We too believe that a government, as President Lincoln said, is of the people, by the people and for the people; a government, as Jefferson insisted, where the majority rules, but where the rights of the minority, all minorities, are vigorously protected; a government, as the American founding fathers so wisely conceived, where checks and balances help prevent the abuse of power and ensure that no one is above the law.
“That’s why the Fourth of July is more than an American holiday.
“It is a day that is celebrated by all those who cherish freedom around the world.
“It’s a day that we honor the nation that has held the torch of liberty for 237 years. That Statue of Liberty shines not only in New York Harbor, not only in the United States of America, it shines around the world. Everybody sees America’s gift of freedom.”
Netanyahu said, “In the Middle East today, there are many people who seek such a future.
“Those who seek liberty are our natural peace partners.
“They also provide hope that the great turbulence that is rocking the Middle East today will ultimately result in a brighter future for all the peoples in our region.
“This will not happen overnight. But if real freedom ultimately takes root throughout the Middle East, a future of prosperity and peace will finally be realized for all.
“Until that day comes, America knows that in the Middle East there is one genuine democracy, one country that it can always count on, and that country is Israel.
“Our countries are true friends; we are true partners; we are true allies.
“And to address the great challenges that we both face today, our alliance is needed more than ever.
“We must work together to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons capability.
“President Obama said on his visit, as he did before. He said: ‘This is a common goal, but always remember that Israel must be able to defend itself by itself against any threat.’
“We adhere to those principles.
“We must work to address the threats posed by the situation in Syria and by the unraveling instability throughout the region.
“And, our friends, we must work together to advance peace with the Palestinians.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Secretary of State John Kerry for his tireless efforts to advance peace. When I say tireless, I mean just that. That man works until three o’clock in the morning. We all do. But then he goes on to a 45 minute stroll in Jerusalem. I think I’ll join him next time.
“Israel hopes those efforts will succeed.
“We place no obstacles whatsoever to resume direct negotiations.
“We are ready for those talks to begin immediately. And we hope the Palestinians will join us in trying to secure a lasting peace between us.
“On behalf of the Israeli people, I thank President Obama and the American people for their unwavering support for the State of Israel.
“May your great nation continue to hold freedom's torch high, and may democracies everywhere continue to be blessed by American leadership for generations to come.”