Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set aside his criticism – at least for one night — of the U.S. and five world powers over ongoing negotiations to reach a long-term agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.
Instead, during a reception Wednesday evening in honor of the Fourth of July at the U.S. ambassador’s residence outside Tel Aviv, Netanyahu focused on what the U.S. and Israel have in common, namely, how the Bible inspired the Founding Fathers and how the Founding Fathers in turn inspired Zionism.
“This is a great day because on the Fourth of July, all Israelis unite with our American brothers and sisters. It's our celebration too. That's because the history of our two countries is remarkably intertwined,” Netanyahu said, according to a transcript released by his office.
“The Founding Fathers of America were inspired by the Bible, and specifically by the Book of the Exodus, by the dream of building freedom in a new promised land. And as you stand in the chamber of the American Congress, you see right across you the image of one man – Moses, with a quote from the Bible,” he said, referring to the marble relief portrait of Moses in the the House of Representatives chamber.
Netanyahu referred to the Moses portrait when he argued against the Iran deal during a speech to a joint session of Congress in March.
“And since the establishment of the United States, that's two and a half centuries, the vision of justice and the vision of peace espoused by the prophets of Israel served as a guiding light for Americans from Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Lincoln to Martin Luther King to many others seeking to form a more perfect union,” the Israeli leader said.
Netanyahu said that just as the heritage of the Bible inspired America, “America inspired us,” pointing out that the founding figures of Zionism were moved by the ideals behind the American Revolution.
“Zionism has always been about freedom, about national freedom, the Jewish people returning to our ancestral homeland to rebuild our one and only sovereign state,” he said. “But it's also been about personal freedom. We built the state of Israel on the same democratic foundations upon which the United States was built.”
While he didn’t directly criticize the nuclear negotiations currently underway in Vienna, Netanyahu did repeat his alarm over Iran’s sponsorship of international terrorism.
“Iran conducts a campaign of aggression in the region and terrorism worldwide. It seeks to build nuclear weapons to advance its mission to export the Islamic revolution, so they say, around the globe,” Netanyahu said.
“For the mullahs that rule Tehran, Israel is the small Satan and America is the great Satan,” Netanyahu said. “Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon, Iran's worldwide campaign of terrorism and aggression must be stopped.”
Regarding the wave of Ramadan-timed Islamic State group-linked terrorist attacks this past week in Tunisia, France, the West Bank and Egypt, Netanyahu warned that the jihadist group was “at the gates” of Israel.
Netanyahu said, “We see that that terrorism is not only exploding within our own country. We see ISIS at the gates – across the border in the Golan, across the border in Egypt.”
“On this day that celebrates freedom both of us know this: Neither one of us can take life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness for granted,” the Israeli leader added.