Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from an address by Gov. Romney to The Jerusalem Foundation on Sunday.
To step foot into Israel is to step foot into a nation that began with an ancient promise made in this land. The Jewish people persisted through one of the most monstrous crimes in human history, and now this nation has come to take its place among the most impressive democracies on earth. Israel’s achievements are a wonder of the modern world.
These achievements are a tribute to the resilience of the Israeli people. You have managed, against all odds, time and again throughout your history, to persevere, to rise up, and to emerge stronger.
The historian Paul Johnson, writing on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Jewish state, said that over the course of Israel’s life, 100 completely new independent states had come into existence.
“Israel is the only one whose creation can fairly be called a miracle,” Johnson wrote. It is a deeply moving experience to be in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.
Our two nations are separated by more than 5,000 miles. But for an American abroad, you can’t get much closer to the ideals and convictions of my own country than you do in Israel.
We’re part of the great fellowship of democracies. We speak the same language of freedom and justice, and the right of every person to live in peace. We serve the same cause and provoke the same hatreds in the same enemies of civilization.
It is my firm conviction that the security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States. And ours is an alliance based not only on shared interests but also on enduring shared values.
In those shared values, one of the strongest voices is that of your prime minister, my friend Benjamin Netanyahu. I met with him earlier this morning and I look forward to my family joining his this evening as they observe the close of this fast day of Tisha B’Av.
It’s remarkable to consider how much adversity, over so great a span of time, is recalled by just one day on the calendar. This is a day of remembrance and mourning, but like other such occasions, it also calls forth clarity and resolve.
At this time, we also remember the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches who were massacred at the Munich Olympics forty years ago. Ten years ago this week, nine Israeli and American students were murdered in the terrorist attack at Hebrew University.
And tragedies like these are not reserved to the past. They are a constant reminder of the reality of hate, and the will with which it is executed upon the innocent.
It was Menachem Begin who said this about the Ninth of the month of Av:
“We remember that day and now have the responsibility to make sure that never again will our independence be destroyed and never again will the Jew become homeless or defenseless.”
“This,” Prime Minister Begin added, “is the crux of the problems facing us in the future.”
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So it is today, as Israel faces enemies who deny past crimes against the Jewish people and seek to commit new ones.
When Iran’s leaders deny the Holocaust or speak of wiping this nation off the map, only the naïve – or worse – will dismiss it as an excess of rhetoric. Make no mistake: the ayatollahs in Tehran are testing our moral defenses. They want to know who will object, and who will look the other way.
My message to the people of Israel and the leaders of Iran is one and the same: I will not look away; and neither will my country. As Prime Minister Begin put it, in vivid and haunting words, “if an enemy of [the Jewish] people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him.”
We have seen the horrors of history. We will not stand by. We will not watch them play out again.
It would be foolish not to take Iran’s leaders at their word. They are, after all, the product of a radical theocracy.
Over the years Iran has amassed a bloody and brutal record. It has seized embassies, targeted diplomats, and killed its own people. It supports the ruthless Assad regime in Syria. It has provided weapons that have killed American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It has plotted to assassinate diplomats on American soil.