JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an Independence Day message that he "appreciate(s) deeply all that America has done for Israel."
The taped video message was played Tuesday night at the Independence Day celebration at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Herzliya. Netanyahu did not attend the event, due to a leg injury sustained while playing soccer with Jewish and Arab children last month.
Referring to the Middle East, Netanyahu said real democracy is not just having popular elections.
"By ensuring both popular sovereignty and individual rights, the nations of the region can join America and Israel in being genuine democracies," Netanyahu said, adding that "there is ample reason for skepticism."
However, he continued, "In the long term I believe there is reason for hope," because "the power of freedom is bound to prevail."
Israeli President Shimon Peres was the main speaker at the Independence Day celebration, which featured hundreds of guests.
"There is a historic friendship between our two nations. America was, and remains, Israel’s greatest ally and its closest friend," Peres declared.
He called President Obama’s decision to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom "a moving gesture of a great leader, a great friend, President Obama. It was an expression of the unshakeable bond between our countries, our two nations, our two peoples. I felt the commitment of President Obama to the peace and security of the State of Israel. It was an uncompromising pledge to the security and future of Israel followed by generous implementation."
Peres also discussed the shared values between the two countries, saying "The United States and Israel were conceived as ideas, to better society, serving a greater good. Always dreaming and always looking forward. Never hating, never attacking and always seeking peace. We share similarities. We are both immigrant-based societies. We both share a pioneering culture. But even more importantly we share a moral compass; we champion freedom, cherish liberty and are committed to the pursuit of happiness. We both see science and technology as the route to a better world. We value the individual as an entrepreneur and the collective responsibility as a source of strength."