Vice President Pence Addresses the Knesset
January 22, 2018
President Rivlin, Prime
Minister Netanyahu, Speaker Edelstein, Leader Herzog, members of the
Knesset, justices of the Supreme Court, citizens of Israel – (applause) –
it is deeply humbling for me to stand before this vibrant democracy –
(applause) – to have the great honor to address this Knesset, the first
vice president of the United States to be afforded that privilege here in
Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel. (Applause.)
And I bring greetings from a leader who has done more to
bring our two great countries closer together than any president in the past 70
years – the 45th president of the United States of America, President
Donald Trump. (Applause.)
Through a 2,000-year exile, the longest of any people,
anywhere, through conquests and expulsions, inquisitions and pogroms, the Jewish
people held on to this promise, and they held onto it through the longest and
darkest of nights. A night that Elie Wiesel proclaimed “seven times sealed.”
A night that transformed the small faces of children into smoke under a silent
sky. A night that consumed the faith of so many and that challenges the faith of
so many still.
And [Tuesday], when I stand with my wife at Yad Vashem to
honor the 6 million Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust, we will marvel at the faith
and resilience of your people, who just three years after walking beneath the
shadow of death, rose up from the ashes to resurrect yourselves, to reclaim a
Jewish future and to rebuild the Jewish state. (Applause.)
And this April, we will mark the day when the Jewish people
answered that ancient question – can a country be born in a day, can a
nation be born in a moment? – as the State of Israel celebrates the 70th
anniversary of its birth. (Applause.)
As you prepare to commemorate this historic milestone, I
say, along with the good people of Israel, here and around the world: Shehecheyanu,
v'kiyimanu, v'higiyanu la'z'man ha'zeh. (Applause.)
Seventy years ago, the United States was proud to be the
first nation in the world to recognize the State of Israel. But as you well
know, the work we began on that day was left unfinished, for while the United
States recognized your nation, one administration after another refused to
recognize your capital.
But just last month, President Donald Trump made history.
He righted a 70-year wrong; he kept his word to the American people when he
announced that the United
States of America will finally acknowledge Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.
The Jewish people’s unbreakable bond to this sacred city
reaches back more than 3,000 years. It was here, in Jerusalem, on Mount Moriah
that Abraham offered his son, Isaac, and was credited with righteousness for his
faith in God.
It was here, in Jerusalem, that King David consecrated the
capital of the Kingdom of Israel. And since its rebirth, the modern State of
Israel has called this city the seat of its government.
Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. And, as such, President
Trump has directed the State Department to immediately begin preparations to
move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Applause.) In the
weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the United States
Embassy in Jerusalem, and that United States Embassy will open before the end of
next year. (Applause.)
Our president made his decision, in his words, “in the
best interests of the United States.” But he also made it clear that we
believe that his decision is in the best interests of peace. By finally
recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States has chosen fact
over fiction. And fact is the only true foundation for a just and lasting peace.
Under President Trump, the United States of America remains
fully committed to achieve a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
In announcing his decision on Jerusalem, the president also
called, in his words, “on all parties to maintain the status quo at
Jerusalem’s holy sites, including at the Temple Mount, also known as the Haram
al-Sharif.” And he made it clear that we're not taking a position on any final
status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in
Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders.
And President Trump reaffirmed that, if both sides agree,
the United States of America will support a two-state solution. (Applause.)
We know Israelis want peace, and we know that Israelis need
no lectures on the price of war. The people of Israel know the terrible price
all too well. Your prime minister knows that price. He himself was nearly killed
in battle, and his beloved brother Yoni was killed while courageously leading
the Entebbe hostage rescue 41 years ago.
And you, who know the price of war, know best what the
blessings of peace can bring – to you, to your children and future
The United States appreciates your government’s declared
willingness to resume direct peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
And today, we strongly urge the Palestinian leadership to return to the table.
Peace can only come through dialogue. (Applause.)
Now, we recognize that peace will require compromise, but
you can be confident in this: The United States of America will never compromise
the safety and security of the State of Israel. (Applause.) Any peace agreement
must guarantee Israel’s ability to defend itself by itself.
Now, there are those who believe that the world can't
change; that we're destined to engage in endless violence; that age-old
conflicts can’t be solved; and that hope itself is an illusion. But, my
friends, President Trump doesn’t believe it. I don’t believe it. And neither
I stand here today in the city whose very name means peace.
And [as] I stand here, I know that peace is possible because history records
that Israel has made the very difficult decisions to achieve peace with its
neighbors in the past.
Over the past two days, I’ve traveled to Egypt and
Jordan, two nations with whom Israel has long enjoyed the fruits of peace. I
spoke with America’s great friends, President Al-Sissi of Egypt and King
Abdullah of Jordan, about the courage of their predecessors who forged an end to
conflict with Israel in their time.
And those two leaders prove every day that trust and
confidence can be a reality among the great nations who call these ancient lands
In my time with those leaders, and with your prime
minister, we discussed the remarkable transformation that is taking place across
the Middle East today, and the need to forge a new era of cooperation in our day
The winds of change can already be witnessed across the
Middle East. Long-standing enemies are becoming partners. Old foes are
finding new ground for cooperation. And the descendants of Isaac and Ishmael are
coming together in common cause as never before.
Last year, in Saudi Arabia, President Trump addressed an
unprecedented gathering of leaders from more than 50 nations at the Arab Islamic
American Summit. He challenged the people of this region to work ever closer
together, to recognize shared opportunities and to confront shared challenges.
And the president urged all who call the Middle East their home to, in his
words, “meet history’s great test – [and] conquer extremism and
vanquish the forces of terrorism together.” (Applause.)
Radical Islamic terrorism knows no borders –
targeting America, Israel, nations across the Middle East and the wider world.
It respects no creed – stealing the lives of Jews, Christians and
especially Muslims. And radical Islamic terrorism understands no reality other
than brute force.
Together with our allies, we will continue to bring the
full force of our might to drive radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the
I'm pleased to report that, thanks to the courage of our
armed forces and our allies, at this very moment ISIS is on the run, their
capital has fallen, their so-called caliphate has crumbled. And you can be
assured we will not rest, we will not relent, until we hunt down and destroy
ISIS at its source, so it can no longer threaten our people, our allies, or our
very way of life. (Applause.)
Now, the United States and Israel have long stood together
to confront the terrible evil of terrorism, and so we will continue. And across
the Middle East, Arab leaders have responded, as well, to the president’s call
with unprecedented action to root out radicalism and prove the emptiness of its
As President Trump made clear in Saudi Arabia, we will
continue to stand with our allies and stand up to our enemies. We will work with
all of our partners to starve, in his words, “terrorists of their territory,
their funding and the false allure of their craven ideology.”
We will also support faith leaders in this region and
across the world, as they teach their disciples to practice love, not hate. And
we will help persecuted peoples, who have suffered so much at the hands of ISIS
and other terrorist groups.
To this end, the United States has redirected funding from
ineffective relief efforts. And, for the first time, we are providing direct
support to Christian and other religious minorities as they rebuild their
communities after years of repression and war. (Applause.)
The United States has already committed more than $110
million to assist Christian and other religious minorities across the wider
Middle East. And we urge our allies – here in Israel, in Europe and
across the world – to join us in this cause. Let's work together to
restore the rich splendor of religious diversity across the Middle East, so that
all faiths may once again flourish in the lands where they were born.
As we work to defeat the scourge of terrorism, and give aid
to those who have suffered at its hands, we must also be resolved and vigilant
to prevent old adversaries from gaining any new ground.
To that end, the United States will continue to work with
Israel, and with nations across the world, to confront the leading state sponsor
of terror – the Islamic Republic of Iran. (Applause.)
As the world has seen once again, the brutal regime in Iran
is merely a brutal dictatorship that seeks to dominate its citizens and deny
them of their most fundamental rights. History has proven, those who dominate
their own people rarely stop there. And increasingly, we see Iran seeking to
dominate the wider Arab world.
That dangerous regime sows chaos across the region. Last
year alone, even as its citizens cried out for help with basic necessities, Iran
devoted more than $4 billion to malign activities in Syria, Lebanon and
elsewhere across the region. It has supported terrorist groups that even now sit
on Israel’s doorstep. And worst of all, the Iranian regime has pursued a
clandestine nuclear program, and at this very hour is developing advanced
Two-and-a-half years ago, the previous administration in
America signed a deal with Iran that merely delays the day when that regime can
acquire a nuclear weapon. The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster, and the United
States of America will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement.
At President Trump's direction, we're working to enact
effective and lasting restraints on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile
programs. Earlier this month, the president waived sanctions on Iran to give the
Congress and our European allies time to pass stronger measures. But as
President Trump made clear, this is the last time.
Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed, President Trump has
said the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately.
Whatever the outcome of those negotiations, today I have a
solemn promise to Israel, to all the Middle East and to the world: The United
States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.
(Applause.) Beyond the nuclear deal, we will also no longer tolerate Iran’s
support of terrorism or its brutal attempts to suppress its own people.
Last year, our administration more than tripled the number
of sanctions targeting Iran and its leaders. And just this month, the United
States issued tough new sanctions on Iran.
But I have another message today – a better message –
from the people of America to the proud and great people of Iran: We are your
friends, and the day is coming when you will be free from the evil regime that
suffocates your dreams and buries your hopes. (Applause.) And when your day of
liberation finally comes, we say to the good people of Iran, the friendship
between our peoples will blossom once again. (Applause.)
While at times it may seem hard to see, those who call the
Middle East their home have more that unites them than divides them – not
only in common threats, but in the common hope for a future of security and
prosperity and peace, and in the common ancestry of faith that runs throughout
these very lands.
Nearly 4,000 years ago, a man left his home in Ur of the
Chaldeans to travel here, to Israel. He ruled no empire, he wore no crown, he
commanded no armies, he performed no miracles, delivered no prophecies, yet to
him was promised “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky.”
Today, Jews, Christians, and Muslims – more than
half the population of the Earth, and nearly all the people of the Middle East –
claim Abraham as their forefather in faith. Only steps from here, in the Old
City of Jerusalem, we see the followers of these three great religions in
constant contact with one another. And we see each faith come to life in new and
renewed ways every day.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we see a Christian
child receiving the gift of grace, in baptism. At the Western Wall, we see a
young Jewish boy being bar-mitzvahed. And at the Haram al-Sharif, we see young
Muslims, heads bowed in prayer.
In Jerusalem, we see all this and more. And so today, as I
stand in Abraham’s “Promised Land,” I believe that all who cherish
freedom, and seek a brighter future, should cast their eyes here to this place
and marvel at what they behold.
How unlikely was Israel’s birth; how more unlikely has
been her survival. And how confounding, and against the odds, has been her
thriving. You have turned the desert into a garden, scarcity into plenty,
sickness into health, and you turned hope into a future.
Israel is like a tree that has grown deep roots in the soil
of your forefathers, yet as it grows, it reaches ever closer to the heavens. And
today and every day, the Jewish state of Israel, and all the Jewish people, bear
witness to God’s faithfulness, as well as your own.
It was the faith of the Jewish people that gathered the
scattered fragments of a people and made them whole again; that took the
language of the Bible and the landscape of the Psalms and made them live again.
And it was faith that rebuilt the ruins of Jerusalem and made them strong again.
The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world. And
the United States of America is proud to stand with Israel and her people, as
allies and cherished friends. (Applause.)
And so we will “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” that
“those who love you be secure,” that “there be peace within your walls,
and security in your citadels.”
And we will work and strive for that brighter future where
everyone who calls this ancient land their home shall sit “under their vine
and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.”
With an unshakeable bond between our people, and our shared
commitment to freedom, I say from my heart: May God bless the Jewish people, may
God bless the State of Israel and all who call these lands their home, and may
God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)