Speaker of the House John Boehner reiterated his commitment to Israel yesterday, in a speech given at the Jewish National Fund’s 2011 National Conference in Cincinnati. Boehner's speech is particularly timely, considering that the Palestinians will seek statehood at United Nations later this week. Here's the text (save the lengthy introduction):
“Like you, I have 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’re here to see that Israel continues to thrive – and to make clear it is America’s duty to stand by her side. Not just as a broker or observer – but as a strong partner and reliable ally.
“That’s why I’m pleased to report that the House 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.’
“Couldn’t have said it better myself.
“I’ve been Speaker of the House more than eight months now … 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 Meeting 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 did not disappoint. He received nearly 30 standing ovations … bipartisan standing ovations. All well-deserved.
“Ladies and gentlemen, 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.
“I invite the people in this room – and anyone as concerned as I am about the future of Israel – to speak out. Washington needs to hear from you, too.
“For this to be a truly transformational time, one thing cannot change … and that is 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.
“American patriots went to Philadelphia to make a Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin called the colonies ‘God’s new Israel.’
“Israel’s founders gathered in Tel Aviv to realize Herzl’s dream by issuing a Proclamation of Independence.
“Both sites, by the way, are now called Independence Hall.
“The Israeli proclamation 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 September 11th 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. And it was built by the Jewish National Fund. Thank you.
“I appreciate the fact that you call it a ‘living’ memorial.
“Those who died left behind a sacred charge: to pledge to each other ‘never again’ and to confront and defeat the terrorist threat.
“Over the last ten years, not only has Israel stood with us, but it has done so from the front lines of the struggle to confront and defeat terror.
"Thinking back to the last time I was in Israel … standing at the northern border with Lebanon...
“From where I stood on that border, it’s about a hundred miles to Jerusalem, about the same distance from here to our state capital of Columbus.
“For Israel, the enemy is close … and committed.
“Why, Israel’s neighbor does not even acknowledge its right to exist.
“Just four months ago, the leader of the Hamas administration in Gaza said, and I quote, ‘The Jews are the most despicable and contemptible nation to crawl upon the face of the Earth.’
“Recently, Hamas leaders blocked Palestinian students from studying in the United States under scholarships they legitimately earned. Why? ‘For social and cultural reasons.’
“This week, Israel will face 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 prime minister before him, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows peace will require compromise – and he accepts that. He welcomes that.
“Where I’m from … where we’re from … we stand by our friends, especially the ones who have always stood by us.
“Supporting Israel and her 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. And, with your help, it will be. It must be.
“Not far from here, near where I live in West Chester, is a place called Voice of America Park.
“It was once the site of a relay station for the Voice of America radio station, which was established during World War II.
“The station transmitted ‘truthful news’ about freedom and democracy to oppressed peoples, behind enemy lines.
“Hitler could do nothing to stop it. VOA got to him. He was known in his speeches to decry those ‘Cincinnati liars.’
“The lesson here is simple: words matter. The truth can pierce even the most stubborn defenses.
“It is up to us to tell Israel’s story … to spread Israel’s truth. The voice of America starts with the people in this room.
“I’m up for it. And for the sake of our people, Israel’s people, and all freedom-loving peoples – I hope all of us are up for it.
“Let’s look out for one another, and keep at it. Never quit. Thank you.”