April 17, 2002

Thank you very much. Mr. Ambassador, Mrs. Ivry, members of Congress, distinguished guests from the diplomatic community, ladies and gentlemen:

It’s a great honor to join you all in marking Israel’s 54th Independence Day, and in paying tribute to one of Israel’s great public servants, Ambassador David Ivry. I am here as a friend of the Ambassador, and as a friend to the people and the State of Israel.

Ambassador Ivry and I go back a number of years. I first came to appreciate his talents long before we met. As Secretary of Defense during the Gulf War, my job — and America’s mission — was infinitely more manageable because Saddam Hussein did not have a nuclear weapon. And I knew whom to thank.. It was General David Ivry, who a decade earlier had launched the successful preemptive strike against the Osirak nuclear reactor. I sent him a note of gratitude, along with a satellite photo of his work.

Israel has always depended on men of David Ivry’s caliber — decisive, courageous, and far-sighted. In moments of danger, he has defended his country brilliantly. As director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, he has ensured Israel’s strength. As a diplomat, he has been discerning, wise, and trustworthy. As the ambassador to the United States, he has spoken well for his nation, and for the American-Israeli alliance.

He returns to Israel in another hour of great need. Today, as 54 years ago, there are two constants for the State of Israel: vigilance in an uncertain region, and the committed friendship of the United States. The new Jewish state was declared at midnight, Jerusalem time, on Friday, May 14, 1948. The first recognition was announced eleven minutes later, by the United States of America.

From that day to this — from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush – America has been committed to a strong, safe, secure Israel.

That friendship is born of shared interests and values — our common belief in democracy and free institutions — regional stability — prosperity — and the pursuit of peace. Our friendship is strong and enduring, and cannot be shaken.

On my visit to Jerusalem last month, I thanked Prime Minister Sharon and the Israeli people for their support in the war we are fighting against terrorism. Israelis have lived at the front lines of this struggle for decades. Israel knows the merciless carnage that terrorists inflict. Israel knows that if peace is to prevail, all terrorism must end. Our two countries are full partners in the cause of defeating this threat to the civilized world.

The people of America and of Israel also believe in the possibility, and the necessity, of peace — arrived at through compromise, good will, and an absolute renunciation of terror and violence as tools of negotiation. Terrorists are trying to destroy good will — and spread fear and hatred – and smother any hope on either side of a peaceful settlement. The sowers of death and discord must not be permitted to shape the destiny of Israelis and Palestinians. That destiny — the future of the Middle East — must be shaped and decided by peacemakers: responsible and courageous leaders on all sides who rise to President Bush’s call to defeat terror — and who lead the region to reconciliation and security.

A lasting peace may at times seem distant. But with Secretary Powell’s hard work in a difficult task, we are making progress toward peace. And the story of Israel is a story of hopes that endure. As Ambassador Ivry has observed, "In Israel, we must have patience, optimism, and resolve. For over the course of the past four thousand years we have learned that there is no other way."

Mr. Ambassador, as the State of Israel begins its 55th year, President Bush and I proudly reaffirm the bond between America and Israel. We thank you for own service as a soldier and statesman. We wish you well on your return to Israel, and in your years of service to come.

Thank you.