Greetings from Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom to the Diplomatic Corps
on the occasion of Israel’s 56th Independence Day
Bet Hannasi, Jerusalem

Your Excellency President Katsav and Mrs Katsav,
Excellencies and members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Eminent Heads of Churches and Religious communities,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a true pleasure to be here today to mark the 56th anniversary of Israel’s Independence. This annual gathering of diplomatic representatives symbolizes the rightful place that our young country has taken among the nations of the world.

This is a day of celebration for us all.

We celebrate Israel’s democratic values and institutions and our Jewish way of life; we celebrate our independent judiciary and free press; our pioneering creativity in the sciences, medicine and agriculture; our success in absorbing millions of immigrants and refugees from other lands; our cultural richness and diversity; and our ability to defend our citizens from harm. We celebrate the living dream which is the modern rebirth of the Jewish people in its homeland.

Even as we celebrate, we also bow our heads to honor the many thousands of men and women who paid the ultimate price so that our country may survive and flourish.

We remember, too, that none of our achievements can be taken for granted.
Even today, Israel and its citizens continue to face challenges and enemies which threaten our safety and seek to undermine our ability to lead a normal life.

Countries such as Iran and Syria as well as Islamic extremists everywhere continue to stoke the fire of conflict and hostility and to seek new ways to threaten our state and our people. The threat of terrorism continues, even as our fight against it gains momentum. International coordination and determination is absolutely crucial to combating this global enemy.

Anti-Semitism too has emerged once again as a danger, not only to Israel and to Jewish communities around the world, but to civilized society everywhere. Israel and the entire international community must remain united and mobilized in the battle against terrorism, anti-Semitism and racism – the enemies of our values and our shared way of life. This is the challenge of our age.

Clearly, we still have much work ahead of us to safeguard what we have built, and to fulfill the aspirations of our people for a peaceful and better future. 
But while the international environment presents us with many difficulties, it also holds many opportunities to promote our interests and the welfare of our citizens. We are keen to utilize these opportunities and the broad international support for Israel in order to build partnerships and strategies that will bring benefit to all.

Last Yom Haatzmaut, I spoke with optimism regarding the new Palestinian government of Abu Mazen. Sadly, the Palestinian Authority has failed to deliver on its promise of reform, and continues to allow the territories under its control to serve as the platform for daily terrorism against us. This terrorism must end if we are to be able to return to the path of negotiations.

It is our hope that with the encouragement of the international community, the Palestinian side will realize that they will not achieve their aspirations for statehood through terror. In the year that we celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of peace between Israel and Egypt, the time has come for a Palestinian leadership which is ready to show the courage of Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat and to work with us to build a better future.

With this vision of peace and of international partnership, let me conclude by expressing once again how happy I am that so many representatives of the international community have come to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with us. You and your families live amongst us, and share with us not only the joys of our wonderful country but also the pressures of our existence under the constant shadow of Palestinian terror. Your efforts to convey the reality of life here in Israel are crucial to the international understanding for our country.

Thank you for your role in building our ties with the international community.

Hag Atzmaut Sameah!