Remarks by President Biden at the reception of the Israeli Presidential Medal of Honor
Garden of the President’s Residence
6:08 PM NDT
PRESIDENT BIDEN: President Herzog, it is wonderful to be with you again and an honor to be with so many familiar faces in this garden.
You know, if anyone were to understand my inclination to enthusiasm, you should be. With a – with a grandfather who thought Sinn Féin was the future of Ireland, you should understand that. (Laugh.)
Y’all think I’m kidding; I’m not.
PRESIDENT HERZOG: A great day for the Irish. (Laugh.)
PRESIDENT BIDEN: I have known many of you for a long time. And all of you know that my love for Israel runs deep. I was raised, as we say and you say, by a virtuous Christian – my father.
And I’ve had the honor — it’s hard to say those words — for over 50 years — it can’t be that long — but for over 50 years in the federal government to help build the relationship. Fifty years ago, we never had this audience before. We wouldn’t have that audience here. We have so many people represented, representing so many different nations and religions. And that’s important.
But, you know, to see Israel prosper, to see the wildest dreams of Israel’s founding fathers and mothers become a reality that Israeli children are enjoying today, to me, that’s almost miraculous. You are always – there is a – we use, in the Catholic Church, a hymn based on one of the Psalms. And he said, “Let him lift you up on eagle’s wings and carry you in the breath of the dawn.” Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Well, every time I’ve come over these years, thank God, God seems to hold us in the palm of his hand, because we’re getting stronger, not weaker. And for me, it’s quite miraculous.
The Torah tells the story of the prophet who described the ancient Israelis – Israe – – the Israelis as the people who “dwell alone” – in the part of the Torah that will be read at services across the United States this week.
You know, I know, President Herzog, that your uncle also wrote a book with that title.
PRESIDENT HERZOG: Mm-hmm.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: But as I watch those proud and strong Israelis in the audience, the nation that made the desert bloom and built the Iron Dome, I see people becoming more secure, more integrated, more confident, and more … have greater relations with their neighbors; a nation that has forged peace before and can do so again; and a nation that will never stand alone. Because as long as we’re in the United States, you’ll never be alone. (Applause.)
And as you know, there is still a lot of work to do. That is why America’s commitment to Israel’s security remains rock solid. Today and in the future, this commitment does not concern me or any other American president. It stems from the deep affinity and enduring bond between our peoples. And it is our responsibility as leaders to nurture that bond, to ensure that it grows stronger, deeper and wider as we face the challenges ahead – and they will continue to be deep and they will change.
And as a leader, I can say without hesitation that to be known as a friend of Israel and to receive this award today is one of the greatest honors of my career. And I say that from the bottom of my heart. (Applause.) In fact —
And thank you, Mr. Chairman. Since I know that you and I share a connection, as I said, with Ireland, I hope you will forgive me for ending by quoting an Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. And he wrote — in “The Cure at Troy,” he said, “History says: Hope not on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime, that long-awaited tidal wave of justice rises, and hope and history rhyme.
I really believe that we are at one of those times, if we are lucky and work hard, where we can combine hope and history.
Both Israel and the United States are places built on hope, courage and determination. And I believe that together, we will always remain faithful to our founding values and that we can help bring hope and history together again. But this time – this time, in one of the most dysfunctional parts of the world in the past, where you will, once again, be fully integrated and be one of the leaders.
So, Mr. President, it’s an incredible honor. And, as some of you have heard me say, if my mom was around, she’d be like, “Joey, shut up and let that man do his thing. (Laugh.)
So, thank you, thank you, thank you. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT HERZOG: Thank you, Mr. President. So, Mr President…
MODERATOR: (Speaks Hebrew.)
The President of the State of Israel, Isaac Herzog, will award the Presidential Medal of Honor to the President of the United States of America, Joe Biden.
PRESIDENT HERZOG: So, the Honorable President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., in recognition of the strong support for Israel that you have consistently demonstrated, and the depth of friendship that our nations share, I wish to present to you the highest honor bestowed by an Israeli president, the Presidential Medal of Honor. This tradition was instituted by the late President and your good friend, Shimon Peres.
The accompanying certificate reads, and I begin by quoting the Bible: (Speaks in Hebrew.) “With him are wisdom and strength. He has advice and understanding.
The Presidential Medal of Honor is awarded to the Honorable President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. of the United States of America for his true friendship with the State of Israel, the people of Israel and the Jewish people; his decades-long uncompromising commitment to Israel’s security; his contributions to deepening, strengthening and improving the strong and unshakable alliance between Israel and the United States of America; and his fight against anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic hatred around the world.
(The Medal of Honor is presented.) (Applause.)
PRESIDENT BIDEN: What a great honor. Thanks a lot.
PRESIDENT HERZOG: A pleasure.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you.
6:14 p.m. IDT