29 years ago today, Jack Kemp spoke at the roll-out of Israel’s Lavi fighter aircraft. His remarks strike themes eerily relevant to the current debate over the proposed deal with Iran:
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The Honorable Jack Kemp
Remarks prepared for delivery
at the rollout of the Lavi fighter aircraft
Tel Aviv, Israel
July 21, 1986
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The Book of Proverbs tells us that, just as gold and silver are tested in the furnace of fire, so man is tested in the fires of adversity. 210 years ago this month, the United States was born when men and women joined together to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to gain America’s independence and secure their personal liberties.
Here in Israel, that same pledge must not only be lived anew by each successive generation. It must be defended every day, often at great and tragic human cost. We in America admire your resiliency. We admire your strength. Most of all, we admire your courage to defend freedom.
Israel and America may be long leagues apart, but as President Reagan has declared, we are philosophical neighbors, bound by our shared commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and enduring ties of trust and friendship — qualities that in our eyes make Israel a great nation.
In truth, we are even more. We are the sons and daughters of Abraham. We are one family. We are kin who stand together as few countries have stood together in modern times — to defend freedom, to support democracy, to fight terrorism, and to resist the rising clamor of hypocrisy in the once hallowed halls of the United Nations.
Let us never fall victim to tactics of tyrants who, as Churchill observed of the Nazis in the 1930s, trample all legal principles into the dirt when it serves their purposes, yet hold us to the highest possible moral standards when we attempt to defend ourselves. We are entitled to, and must never deprive ourselves of the honorable right of self-defense – neither legally, nor economically, nor militarily.
Our presence here today, to witness and celebrate the rollout of the Lavi, is a real and visible expression of the partnership of our two democracies. I am proud to have been one of the principal sponsors of the legislation providing U.S. funding for the Lavi, and to have fought for that funding. And I am proud that our congressional delegation here today is Bipartisan.… When the United States provides aid to Israel, we are not extending charity. We are investing our faith and precious resources in a key ally; we are contributing to a vital defense outpost for the West, just as surely as our own defense budget is vital to our freedom.
Israel is an island of democracy surrounded by a sea of peril. To those who foment violence, to those who resist Israel’s right to exist and live in peace — Syria, the PLO, Qaddafi’s Libya, the fanatical fundamentalists of Khomeini’s Iran, the Soviet Union — our message and our actions must be firm and forthright: Israel is not America’s client; Israel is our ally and our friend — a most reliable friend, indeed. And being our friend, she is not alone, she is not expendable, and she must never be abandoned.
Earlier this month, Israel commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Entebbe operation. Entebbe showed the world that terrorism will never succeed in the face of courage and national will. Since then, we in the United States have seen terrorists maim and murder our countrymen, victimizing innocents and bringing tragedy to our lives.
And out of this bitterness and rage we see a growing, belated consensus in the West over what must be done to defeat the forces of terror.
The U.S. attack on Libya should be understood as a signal that we will no longer tolerate what was always in a moral sense intolerable. We stand ready to work with Israel, and with our other allies, to arrive at a coherent, and morally consistent, policy toward terrorist states.
Yet many people still believe that terrorism is the result of groups and individuals reacting against real or perceived injustice in the world, and that, in the currently fashionable slogan, we cannot eliminate terrorism unless we address the “root causes” of terrorism. Well, some terrorists may be fighting for an objective they consider noble, but the true cause of terrorism is hostility toward democracy and abhorrence of Judeo-Christian values; it Is the desire of regimes to expand their power by attacking us and our friends and allies.
The only way to eliminate terrorism is to go after terrorists, to hold to account the regimes that harbor, train and command terrorists, and to support the opponents of these outlaw regimes.
So let us dispel any illusions about the real obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East: not refugees, nor energy, nor even borders, grave and momentous as these problems are. No, what continues to impede every earnest attempt to resolve crucial problems is the unrelenting hostility and belligerence toward Israel, which the Soviet Union and its client states exploit to stir up the waters of terrorism and turmoil. …
With the signing of the memorandum of understanding in May of this year, Israel became a full partner with other NATO countries in the research and development efforts relating to President Reagan’s strategic defense initiative, which I strongly support. In a global context, SDI has far-reaching implications for the preservation of western security, stability and peace…[W]e see our natural alliance with Israel as part of the broad network of alliances America enjoys with other free nations throughout the world.
For it is we, the freedom loving peoples of the world, who yearn so deeply for stability and peace and the right to pursue our own way of life, it is we who must stand together.
My friends, I spoke a moment ago of Israel and America as a family. Let us treasure our American-Israeli family, let us keep it always as the great power for good it was meant to be – to preserve our strength, and to heal and transcend whatever differences and problems we may encounter along the way. This we must endeavor to do together.
As we look one last time at this shining new fighter aircraft, I am reminded of a scene in the play Fiddler on the Roof. When one of the town’s people asked the rabbi if he had a proper blessing for the czar, the rabbi answered, “of course: May God bless and keep the czar-.far away from us.”
Good friends of Israel, may the Lavi and the Israeli Air Force help protect your nation and keep any and all enemies far away. And may the Creator of the Universe, our loving God, bless our Israeli-American family. And may we be always close, always safe, always free.
Hashem yish-mor-chem may-atah veh-odd o-lahm. (“May God protect you forever.”)