I’ve read suggestions by newspaper columnists and observers that events have overtaken Israel, that Israel is “isolating itself” in the Middle East. That view is wrong, and always has been wrong. Israel is not isolating itself – Israel is leading in the Middle East. Israel does not stand alone – Israel stands above as the one true beacon of freedom and opportunity in the Middle East.
We need to see to it that Israel continues to thrive – and to make clear it is America’s duty to stand by its side. Not just as a broker or observer but as a strong partner and reliable ally.
That’s why I’m pleased the House of Representatives has ensured – in this time of fiscal responsibility – that America meets its financial commitments to Israel. We will continue to do so.
I’m also pleased with the work being done by the House Foreign Affairs Committee under the leadership of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. She led the charge to put the House on record opposing funding for the Palestinian Authority as long as it aligns itself with Hamas. As Ileana put it not too long ago, “I don’t care if there is one or five or hundreds of members of Hamas involved; no U.S. funds can go to the PA.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
I’ve been speaker of the house more than eight months now and we’ve had some significant moments in the chamber. For me, one of the most powerful occurred in May when Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress. It was my honor to invite him. It was the least I could do for the leader of one of our closest allies in the world. Bibi didn’t disappoint. He received nearly 30 standing ovations – bipartisan standing ovations, all well deserved.
I invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress because the American people deserved to hear from him – and Washington, quite frankly, needed to hear what he had to say. For this to be a truly transformational time, one thing cannot change: America’s commitment to Israel’s future.
Something the prime minister said in his speech to Congress has stuck with me. He was talking about how the Middle East stands at a crossroads. And he said: “Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty.”
It is the path less traveled isn’t it? We know freedom and democracy don’t come cheap. They require vigilance – they rely on the tools of persuasion and progress. Among those tools are strategic alliances built on trust, not fear or coercion.
Our democracies are cut from the same cloth. Our peoples treasure the same values. The Israeli proclamation of independence imagined a state based on freedom, justice and peace, one that guarantees freedom of religion, conscience, language, education, and culture. It spoke of a country that would foster economic development for the benefit of all its inhabitants. There are no shortcuts or loopholes – no talk of one election, one time. It’s about freedom and opportunity for all, and for all time.
Freedom is a universal right – but we have learned the hard way it is an earned right. The United States and Israel remain prime targets of terror. The recent anniversary of 9/11 was a reminder of our shared pain.
There is only one place in the world outside the United States that lists the names of all the innocents who died that day. It is located on a hilltop at the entrance to Jerusalem, built by the Jewish National Fund.
Over the last ten years, not only has Israel stood with us, it has done so from the front lines of the struggle to confront and defeat terror. The last time I was in Israel I stood at the northern border with Lebanon. From where I stood on that border, it’s about a hundred miles to Jerusalem. For Israel, the enemy is close – and committed.
This week, Israel faces a three-pronged assault when the United Nations General Assembly meets. There will be a “celebration” of the Durban Declaration, a document that charges Israel with racism. The president of Iran, who has called Israel a cancer to be annihilated, will take the podium. And the Palestinian Authority will seek a unilateral recognition of statehood.
Israel has demonstrated time and again it seeks nothing more than peace – a peace agreed to by the two states and only the two states. Like every Israeliprime minister before him, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows peace will require compromise – and he accepts that. He welcomes that.
Where I’m from, we stand by our friends, especially the ones who have always stood by us. Supporting Israel and its people has been the policy of this nation since Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office. Our commitment to Israel should be no less strong today. If anything, it should be stronger than it’s ever been.
John Boehner (R-Ohio) is speaker of the House of Representatives. This article was adapted from his speech in Cincinnati on Sept. 18 at the Jewish National Fund’s annual conference.