Blinken, Senate leaders join Israel Independence Day virtual event

WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell participated on Wednesday night in a virtual celebration of Israel’s 73rd Independence Day.
According to Israel’s embassy in Washington, which hosted the event, more than 20,000 people watch it online.
“In your 73rd year of freedom, we salute Israel’s determination, bravery and ingenuity, which have made possible your country’s prosperity and hard-won security,” Blinken said. “The United States commitment to Israel’s security is ironclad, and together, we work strengthening all aspects of our partnership, just like we’ve been doing since the United States first recognized Israel in 1948.”
He went on to say that this past year has been particularly challenging for the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, “but it’s allowed Israel once again to demonstrate its resilience, strength and compassion, whether by leading the world in your vaccination rate or making new friends from Morocco all the way to Bhutan.
“The United States welcomes and supports the recent normalization agreements,” Blinken continued. “We will continue to urge more countries to normalize relations with Israel, and we’ll look for other opportunities to expand cooperation among countries in the region. As a result, I expect Israel’s group of friends to grow even wider in the years ahead.”
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell said that Israel’s endurance “is a proud legacy for its people and for millions of friends around the world who celebrate alongside you.”
“Of course, the past year has brought reasons to be especially optimistic about the future,” he said. “I was proud to see the United States help facilitate historic steps forward in Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors. The historic agreements that have begun to normalize relations with Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and Morocco have created a tremendous opportunity to secure more peaceful and more prosperous days ahead.

“I’m hopeful that this day of celebration will inspire the leaders in Israel, the US and around the world to keep building on this great momentum,” McConnell added. “I’ll do everything I can to make sure the United States continues to stand firm with Israel, whether we’re joined in celebrating moments of historic achievement or facing down the shared challenges side-by-side.”
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said that since its founding, “Israel has faced and overcome every challenge imaginable: threats from the outside; violence and terror; economic distress; and of course, the greatest health crisis the world has seen in a hundred years.”
“On this Independence Day, my heart goes out to all the Israelis who have lost their lives over the past 12 months, and to their families, their friends, and to all the healthcare workers who fought valiantly on the front lines of this disease,” he said.
He added that, “like so many times before, I know that the nation of Israel will come out of these struggles stronger than ever before.”
“The United States Senate will stand as your friend, ready to affirm [our] decades-long alliance and to work together, to build a secure and prosperous future for our two countries,” said Schumer. “The relationship between Israel and the United States, as long as I am majority leader, will remain like this.”  
Ambassador Gilad Erdan noted in his speech that “while we may occasionally have different views on specific policies, the United States and Israel stand united on our guiding principles.
“We believe in true democracy; we embrace the human spirit and value human lives; we cherish and preach tolerance, understanding and accepting the other; we hold dear the basic principle of human rights and personal freedoms,” he said: “The principle of freedom and democracy; the principle of combating hate and defending human rights; and the principle of standing strong in the face of terror and threats. These shared principles guarantee that our nations will endure and that our friendship will flourish.
“We face the opportunity to widen the circle of peace and reshape the Middle East by expanding cooperation with all of the Abraham Accords countries and beyond,” the ambassador said. “I intend to work in the coming year with the US administration, in every way possible, to expand the circle of peace.  “I am certain that there will be more countries in the region that will choose the path of peace and coexistence with Israel,” Erdan said. “And together with this opportunity, we face the challenge of countering radical regimes, especially Iran, and the murderous terrorist groups they support.”

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