JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu marked America's Independence day with the following greeting:
Ambassador Shapiro, Dan and Julie, President Peres, members of the Israeli government, members of the Knesset, distinguished diplomats, honored guests, and especially the members of the United States armed forces,
I'm really thrilled each year to see those wonderful drills that you do with the flags, and that's another reason I really wanted to be with you tonight.
But I got hurt playing football.
No, not the football with helmets, shoulder pads and the funny shaped ball. How do you throw that thing, anyway?
Well, I was playing a different kind of football. What Americans call "soccer." But whatever they call it, it hurt, especially in my pride.
But I wanted to express my appreciation to you, Dan, for the wonderful job you are doing as America's ambassador to Israel.
And Sara and I also wanted to wish you and Julie a mazal tov [congratulations] on the Bat Mitzvah of your daughter, Liat.
Even though I can't be there in person, I wanted to express my appreciation to President Obama and to the American people as you celebrate Independence Day.
You see, because as Israel's prime minister, I appreciate deeply all that America has done for Israel.
And as the leader of one of the world's most vibrant democracies -- you know how vibrant -- I appreciate all the great sacrifices that America has made in order to advance liberty and democracy throughout the world.
America's revolution was founded on two very powerful ideas.
First, that people should have the right to elect their own leaders and be sovereign over their own destiny.
And second, that the power of those leaders, the power of governments, must be checked so that individual rights will be protected.
I'm always moved, no matter how many years pass, I'm always moved when I read Thomas Jefferson's words:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident:
That all men are created equal.
That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.
That among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
The American Revolution brought these two powerful ideas together and they made America a beacon of liberty for all humanity.
Now, you know that the Middle East is undergoing a profound and historic transformation, and the question arises: will these twin ideas -- will they become rooted in our region too?
All those who value freedom should remember that to be a real democracy, it is not enough to have a government that represents the majority of the people.
Real democracy also means having a government that respects the rights of each and every individual in it.
Real democracy is not merely about holding popular elections.
It is about what happens between elections.
It means ensuring that no one is above the law.
It means protecting free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion.
It means upholding the rights of women, minorities, gays, children, everyone.
By ensuring both popular sovereignty and individual rights, the nations of the region can join America and Israel in being genuine democracies.
Now, will this happen?
In the near term, I think we'll all agree, there's ample reason for skepticism.
The forces currently throughout the region that are rising are not exactly...how shall I put it…they're not exactly Jeffersonians.
But in the long term, in the long term I believe there's reason for hope.
Because with the spread of information technology, it will become increasingly difficult to keep young minds closed, cloistered in darkness.
Ultimately, the power of freedom is bound to prevail.
Ultimately, people throughout the Middle East will enjoy the rights that we in free societies too often take for granted.
Ladies and Gentlemen, July 4th is a time to not take freedom for granted.
It's a time to be thankful that history granted America the power to match its ideals with action.
It's a time for free people everywhere to send their best wishes to the United States of America, to the country that has done so much to make the world a safer, freer and more peaceful place.
So on behalf of the people of Israel, let me wish President Obama and all the American people a Happy Independence Day.
Or as they say in small towns across America, Chag Sameach! [Happy Holiday]