Full Text Israel Political Brief June 26, 2014: President Shimon Peres Addresses the United States Congress and Receives the Congressional Gold Medal

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

President Peres Addresses the United States Congress & Receives the Congressional Gold Medal

Source: MFA, 6-26-14

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​President Peres: “Terror knows no borders and obeys no rules.  Terrorists act globally and should be fought globally. We must fight not only the acts of terrorism but also the roots of terrorism.”
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President Shimon Peres addressing the US Congress

  President Shimon Peres addressing the US Congress

Copyright: GPO/Kobi Gideon

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(Communicated by the Office of the President)

Leaders and Members of Congress,

I am humbled to stand here today in this Rotunda, in this great Pantheon of Democracy, the Congress of the United States.

Here, you give expression to the unbreakable spirit of the American people. It was first expressed 237 years ago when your forefathers signed a document whose words will echo for all time. “Among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Those words resonate with as much meaning today, as they did when America’s first patriots wrote them. They have inspired generations of Americans to dream of a better America. And they have inspired peoples across the globe to dream for a better world.

Many people call me a dreamer. I suppose that’s why I have always felt at home here in America. America that was given the privilege to carry the dreams of humanity. My own first dream was to be a shepherd on a kibbutz. This dream came true. At dawn, I watched the sheep in order not to lose one. At night, I watched the stars in order not to miss one.

The dreams of a young shepherd were interrupted by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s George Washington, who called me to serve the Jewish state at birth. I was 24 years old. yet Ben-Gurion entrusted me with heavy responsibilities. He made me Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defense. He charged me with securing our young nation’s ability to defend itself. I worked hard. I had little time to study. I didn’t know a word of English.

After our War of Independence, Ben-Gurion suggested I go the United States to learn English. “Study the American dream.” He told me. So I did.

I learned that America is not a land for the idle. It is a home for the daring. The American dream is about hard work, pioneering spirit, can-do attitude. I learned that the two great bodies that sit under this iconic marble dome – the Senate and the House of Representatives – offered a tiny Israel, struggling for life, an unbelievable and unbreakable friendship.

You helped Israel out of its loneliness. You helped Israel overcome our small size in a tough neighborhood. You helped us maintain a resilient democracy, to become strong enough to take risks for peace. Whether through military assistance and security cooperation or through diplomatic and moral support, you sent us a clear message: That we are not alone.

On behalf of all the people of Israel, I want to thank my friend and Israel’s friend, President Barack Obama, for standing by our side with an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.

I want to thank each and every one of you, the American Congress, for your unwavering, bipartisan and generous support. Thank you for helping us weather so many storms, And for giving us confidence to face the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The challenges we face are considerable. Together, we must fight terrorism, advance peace, prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Like President Obama, Israel hopes that the issue of Iran will be resolved peacefully. And like President Obama, we believe that Iran should be judged by actions not words.

The artificial structures in the Middle East built by the previous empires are falling apart. At the same time, the rules governing the world are being rewritten. Security and prosperity are no longer mainly national issues. National economies are dependent on the global economy. National security is increasingly dependent on fighting global terrorism. And national security is now increasingly dependent on fighting global terrorism.

Amidst all the chaoss in the Middle East, it is easy to sink into despair. But I have seen too much in my life to lose hope. I have seen Israel defy the odds, time and again. I have seen Israel defeat superior enemies on the battlefield and send soldiers to rescue hostages thousands of miles from home.

Israel has shown it can defend itself against those who sought our destruction. Israel did and will do, everything in our power to bring home our three kidnapped boys – Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal. I met with their parents. They asked me to speak here on their behalf. To make your voices heard all over the world to help bring our boys home. To sound a call across the world against terror. Let’s raise our voices together against terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have seen the genius of Israelis make our poor Middle Eastern land bloom and turn Israel into a global center of technology. I learned that hi-tech can quench the world’s thirst for water and heal the planet. We increased yields without increasing land. As the grandson of a Rabbi burnt alive with his community by the Nazis in a synagogue in Belarus in 1942 –  I know that even the darkest hour cannot prevent a new dawn from arriving.

My friends,

Today and together, we must tackle the two monumental challenges we face: Terrorism and poverty.

Terror knows no borders and obeys no rules. It kills hundreds of thousands, and turns millions into refugees. We see it in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Gaza and elsewhere. Terrorists act globally. Therefore, they should be fought globally. We must fight not only the acts of terrorism but the roots of terrorism. Not just by military means. But by drying up their financial resources. By sanctioning their suppliers of arms. By delegitimizing their actions. By weaving a modern regional net that can catch terrorists and protect the innocent populations.

Arabs are not Israel’s enemies. The terrorists are the enemies of both of us. Terrorists spread danger over the entire region. The region must come together to stop them. The time is ripe to do so.

Religions can play a meaningful role in restoring tolerance and hope. Religion can never permit terrorists to hijack faith and perpetrate violence in the name of heaven. We need more voices like Pope Francis. We need rabbis, priests and imams to preach respect for God in heaven and life on earth.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is our duty to offer the young generation a vision more compelling more promising for the future.  The population of the Middle East grew 5 times over in the last 50 years. Its economy did not.
Poverty soared. An era of science replaced the era of land. We experience it daily. Israel has little land, even less water and no oil. But we became a start-up nation through hi-tech and hard work. I learned that the turmoil of today can provide a new hope for tomorrow. And my dream today is that the Middle East will become a start-up region. To make that happen, leaders in the region must do their share to open their societies.

Because without free thinking there is no new thinking. And without openness there are no discoveries. Global companies should play a role helping the region become up to date and prepare for tomorrow. Two thirds of the Middle East population is under 25. For some, that is a cause for concern. For me, it’s a source of hope. For business, it’s a great opportunity for investment both economically and socially. Global companies are aware that young people want a different future.

They want free expression and self-expression. They want equal rights, including the equal right to be different.

Our two countries – Israel and America – also have a unique contribution to offer. We’re not the same size but we share the same values and the same dreams. Our dreams keep us young. Our values keep us true.

What Israel already learned from experience, we want to share with our neighbors. In my decades of having the privilege of serving Israel. I saw her become a thriving democracy. A diverse society. A leading defense force. And a cutting edge scientific community.

Together we can help put the region on a more promising course. Through initiatives in health, education, agriculture, water, and science. I hope to dedicate myself to this work in the years ahead.

As for America, it remains indispensable. America is the greatest power in the world today. And the only great power in history that never tried to become an Empire. You became great not by taking but by giving. America is a force for good. A force for progress. A force for peace. The world is fortunate that America continues to lead it. 60 years ago, America looked to the moon to discover a distant land. Today, the United States is leading a major scientific effort to reveal the secrets of the mind. We are partners in this effort. May I say that in my judgment, there may be more to discover in the brain than on the moon.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

America and Israel should continue to work together to advance peace. Wars can be waged alone. Peace calls for a collective effort. Israel went through 7 wars and attained 2 peace agreements. With Egypt – the largest Arab country. And Jordan – our longest shared border. I hope that we will be able to renew peace talks with the Palestinians soon. Israel does not intend to rule over other people. It stands against our values and heritage. Israel is committed to Tikkun Olam, bettering the world, and making peace with its neighbors.

President Abbas is clearly a partner for peace. He spoke bravely in Saudi Arabia, in Arabic, against the kidnappings, against terror, and for peace. But you cannot put fire and water in the same glass. Hamas is clearly not a partner for peace. Hamas fires rockets at our civilians. They oppose peace and support terror. Finding a way forward is hard. But we must not lose hope. There is no better solution than two states for two peoples. A Jewish state – Israel. And an Arab state – Palestine.

Peace between Israel and Palestine can forge a broader regional peace. A bridge should be built to enable an Israeli peace initiative to meet the Arab peace initiative. I have lived long enough to see the impossible become possible. To skeptics, I can say: Believe me. Peace is the most possible impossibility.

In one month, I will end my term as Israel’s ninth President. But I will never give up on the struggle to achieve peace.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I leave you today with one piece of advice. It is the advice of a boy who dreamed on a kibbutz who never imagined where his blessed life would take him. When Theodore Herzl said: “If you will it, it is no dream.” He was right. Looking back on the life of Israel, our dreams proved – not to be too big – but too small.

Because Israel achieved much more than I could have ever imagined. So I ask only one thing of you, the United States of America, this mighty nation of dreamers. Don’t dream small. You are great. Dream big.  And work to will those dreams into a new reality. For you and all humanity. God bless you all. And God bless the United States of America.

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Israel Musings August 4, 2013: Shimon Peres turns 90, US Congress considers Congressional Gold Medal honor

ISRAEL MUSINGS

ISRAEL MUSINGS: OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Shimon Peres turns 90, US Congress considers Congressional Gold Medal honor (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

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SLIDE SHOW
Israeli President Shimon Peres officially turned 90 on August 2, 2013, and the United States Congress intends to honor the occasion by introducing legislation to award him with the Congressional Gold Medal. Last year President Barack Obama awarded Peres…..READ MORE

Jewish News Brief April 18, 2012: US Congres votes unanimously to award Roaoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF

ISRAEL POLITICAL BRIEF: ISRAEL NEWS

House votes unanimously for Wallenberg medal

Source: JTA, 4-18-12

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously to award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal.

The vote Tuesday, two days before Holocaust Remembrance Day, is part of an effort to confer the honor upon Wallenberg in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth in August.

“By sacrificing his personal safety, and ultimately his life, to protect the lives of a generation of Jews, Raoul Wallenberg exhibited the kind of noble courage that we prize in America,” said William Daroff, the director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, which has led lobbying for the act that would confer the honor. “On behalf of the countless Jews saved through his mission, we are grateful for the House’s action today to permanently honor a global hero.”

Wallenberg, a neutral Swedish diplomat in Budapest during the German occupation in 1944, issued Swedish travel documents — known as “Wallenberg passports” — to at least 20,000 Jews and also set up more than 30 safe houses for Jews. Other neutral diplomats collaborated in the effort.

The details of Wallenberg’s fate have remained a mystery. He disappeared while being escorted out of Hungary toward the Soviet Union. The Soviets claimed that he died of a heart attack in 1957, but other evidence indicated that he was killed in Lubyanka prison or that he may have lived years longer….READ MORE

Remembering and Honoring Courage

Source: WH, 4-19-12

In his video message, President Obama speaks for all Americans who remember the courageous and selfless acts of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. In 2012, Sweden is celebrating the 100thanniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg, a diplomat who chose not to be indifferent and to rise to a higher moral calling. We remember and revere this courageous man whose efforts saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Holocaust.  Wallenberg paid with his life for his commitment to basic values. And we all have the obligation to ponder the full measure of Wallenberg’s personal sacrifice and tragedy.

Born into wealth, for Wallenberg turning a blind eye to the hardship and suffering of others would have been easy. Instead, as First Secretary at the Swedish Legation in Budapest, Hungary during the darkest days of World War II, Wallenberg demonstrated a sense of self-sacrifice to the greater good of his fellow human beings that is a lesson for all of us.

Other diplomats chose to risk their careers and even their lives, and defied official protocols, rules and immigration “policies” to rescue Jews. Many of these diplomats were censured or punished for their acts of courage.  Some were fired or were stripped of their ranks and pensions. Their rescue efforts took many forms. Among other selfless acts, they issued visas, citizenship papers and other forms of documentation that allowed Jews to escape the Nazis.

Today at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, you will find not only Raoul Wallenberg’s tree planted along the Avenue of the Righteous, but also 2,000 other trees and 18,000 other names engraved in the walls of The Garden of the Righteous in remembrance of those who risked their lives to save European Jews from the Holocaust.

Why did they do it?  Because they all believed that: “One man can make a difference.” That is the sentence written over the front door of the Raoul Wallenberg School in Brooklyn, New York, one of many American institutions honoring Wallenberg. In 1981, the U.S. Congress made Wallenberg an honorary U.S. citizen, at that time just the second in our history.

“The importance of not being indifferent” is a timely and relevant operating principle in our relationship with the world today. Advancing human dignity and protecting universal rights is at the core of American values, and it is relevant to the challenges of our time.

As we consider Wallenberg’s personal sacrifice, we must remember Wallenberg’s tragic end: many historians believe he languished in lonely incarceration for months or even years before being murdered. Wallenberg epitomizes what self-sacrifice for the sake of others is all about.

Mark F. Brzezinski is the United States Ambassador to Sweden

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