(May 15, 2018 / Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.) With the celebration of Israel’s 70th Independence Day, the Jewish state owes a profound debt of gratitude to countless individual Americans.
Honorees include two presidents who made historic recognitions, senators and members of Congress who painstakingly nurtured the U.S.-Israel alliance, and diplomats who skillfully strengthened it. It includes soldiers who bravely went into the breach, philanthropists who donated remarkable sums and journalists who brought the truth to light. It includes faith leaders who inspired, public figures who lent prestige and many others who were there for Israel when Israel needed them most.
But beyond all these individuals, Israel owes a debt of gratitude to the American people. For without their strong support, the alliance between the United States and Israel would be nothing like it is today.
To be sure, Israel has been blessed with friendly presidents in the Oval Office and great champions on both sides of the aisle in Congress. But over time, political support in America ultimately depends on the support of its citizens.
Today, support for Israel among Americans stands at record levels. In a survey asked every year for decades, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans now express a favorable opinion of Israel—the highest number in nearly 30 years and second-highest ever. Fully 31 percent expressed a “very favorable” opinion of Israel, the highest number ever recorded.
Many have often wondered about the basis of this broad and deep support for Israel. It extends well beyond the 2 percent of Americans who are Jews or the large Christian evangelical community that has been steadfast in its support for Israel.
Truth be told, the idea of a Jewish state resonated with Americans long before the establishment of Israel. Nearly a century before the first Zionist Congress met in Basel, U.S. President John Adams hoped for the restoration of Jewish sovereignty in Judea, and many decades before Israel declared its independence, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln called that restoration “a noble dream shared by many Americans.”
Since the establishment of Israel, the alliance between America and Israel has grown as the American people have increasingly recognized Israel as a reliable and formidable democratic ally in a region of the world critical for American interests.
That was true as America and Israel stood together during the Cold War, and it has been true in the years since 9/11, as America and Israel have stood together in the fight against the forces of militant Islam.
Americans also appreciate that Israel shares their values. Both democracies cherish freedom of speech, press and religion. Both take pride in their independent courts and the rule of law. Both are dedicated to building free societies that ensure equality of opportunity and justice for all.
But America shares interests and values with a number of countries. What makes this alliance so unique is something else. It is that beyond shared values and shared interests, America and Israel also share a sense of destiny.
America and Israel are not merely countries. They are causes.
America has long been what Lincoln called the last best hope on earth—a beacon of opportunity for people across the world, carrying the torch of freedom for all humanity and entrusted by history with securing liberty’s future.
Israel is the hope of the Jewish people, offering opportunity for all its citizens—Jewish and non-Jewish alike—safeguarding freedom in one of the darkest regions on earth and entrusted by history with securing the Jewish future.
These causes imbue each country with a deep sense of purpose; these purposes are not at odds with each other, but complement and reinforce one another, imbuing the two nations with a deep sense of solidarity.
That’s why Americans support Israel with an intensity that they support perhaps no other country, and why Israelis mourn America’s tragedies and rejoice in its triumphs as perhaps no other country does.
This sense of purpose is bigger than any leader or any issue. It is the DNA of both countries, and it lies at the bedrock of our unique alliance.
As long as Americans and Israelis both have a sense of destiny, America and Israel will share a sense of destiny.
On Israel’s 70th Independence Day, Israel honors all Americans who recognize that shared destiny and who have supported Israel decade after decade.
May God Bless America. May God Bless Israel. And May God Bless the great alliance between our countries.