5759 – 1999
This Independence Day, the last before the Millennium year, finds Israel better prepared than ever to meet the challenges of our time.
It is difficult to recall today that less than two decades ago our economic and political future was hostage to oil politics, and Israel was viewed as a strategic burden, a country in urgent need of help to survive.
We do, of course, still welcome support and friendship, and the bond between Diaspora Jewry and Israel is as vital as ever. But as a state we have come a long way. We are now in the forefront of the world’s givers. In recent weeks we sent the first field hospital and planeloads of vital supplies to help the Kosovo refugees. And, in previous months and years, our rescue missions helped save many thousands in Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mexico and Armenia. Our medical team was the first to care for the victims of the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. Now we are welcoming Kosovo refugees, the way we welcomed Vietnamese, Cambodian and Bosnian refugees in the past.
All this is but one indication of Israel’s transformation. In the economic sphere, our country is poised to become one of the few which can compete with the world’s giants. We possess today’s most important source of wealth: scientific and technological knowledge and expertise. And through liberalization, deregulation and massive privatization we are freeing our economy and enabling enterprise to flourish.
Our political position, too, is firmer. Our concept of security and the principle of reciprocity have become integral components of the peace process – which makes me believe more than ever that we can achieve real, lasting peace with our neighbors.
I am also certain that our neighbors, who have also suffered from long years of war and violence, will conclude that an enduring peace can be achieved only through negotiations, compromise, confidence building, education for peace, and mutual respect.
There is no other way to attain peaceful coexistence, security and prosperity for all of us, and for our children and grandchildren.
On this Independence Day I send you greetings from Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal, undivided capital. Let this be a day on which we welcome the future with confidence, faith, fortitude and hope.