Congressman Kustoff Delivers Historic Address on U.S. Support for Israel at Knesset

Speaker Ohana– it is an honor to be here in Jerusalem, just as it was an honor to host you and your colleagues in the halls of Congress several months ago. 

Ambassador Lew, MK Boaz Bissmuth, and MK Idan Roll - Thank you for welcoming me to Israel; and thank you for the opportunity to join you today in the Knesset.  

The hospitality of the Israeli people is surpassed only by your loyalty and your resiliency, traits you all have shown the entire world, especially over the last nine months.

I am truly humbled and honored to be here.  

I stand before you today as an American Jew, a Member of Congress, in fact, only one of two Jewish Republicans serving in all of Congress, and as a strong supporter of Israel. 

However, I want to tell you that I am here simply because I am a friend of Israel, and friendship is essential in times such as these.

I am also here to deliver a message from the American people: The United States’ strongly supports you, the United States prays for you, and the United States will NEVER abandon Israel. 

I was elected to Congress in 2016 to represent the City of Memphis and West Tennessee – a politically conservative, largely evangelical agricultural community in the Southern United States.  

Now - to give you a flavor of who I represent, when I first campaigned for Congress in 2016, I knocked on a lot of doors. This district has almost as many church steeples as golden McDonald’s arches. Many times, the person opening the door; “Where do you go to Church?” 

When I would answer, “Temple Israel,” the response that I would often receive was; “I love Israel. What can we do to support Israel?” 

It’s been gratifying to me to personally experience the overwhelming support that Israel receives not only from the American Jewish community, but from our friends in the Christian community.  I asked my good friend, Governor Mike Huckabee, why Christians are so supportive of Israel and the Jewish people, and he simply said, “Because we are people of the Book.  The Bible tells us that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed.  We are standing on the right side of history by standing with Israel.” 

Our countries have a long and deep-rooted history. A history that started seventy-six years ago when the independent Jewish State – Eretz Yisrael – was established following the defeat of Nazi Germany and in the wake of the Holocaust.

Eleven minutes later – which is pretty incredible for those times – President Harry S. Truman formally recognized Israel’s independence, making the United States the first nation to do so. From there, Israel grew to be our greatest friend in the Middle East.

The United States and Israel are united by an unbreakable bond. Our friendship is forged by the belief that Democracy is the only form of government that can ensure all men and women have the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Today, we are facing a threat of greater magnitude than just killing and destruction. We are facing a rebuke of western culture and values; a rejection of a free and liberated society; and a direct attack on morality, truth, reason, and goodwill. 

We are fighting an enemy that strives to catapult democracy as a form of government and seeks to eliminate Israel. 

What we are fighting is barbaric terrorism. 

We are combatting a global enemy.  

Back home, my country is currently celebrating 248 years since our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the Thirteen Colonies free from foreign rule. In the years that followed, America’s allies stood by us in our fight for survival.

Without our allies and friends, I do not know if the United States would be here today. 

America’s first President, George Washington, described true friendship as something that “must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity.”

Ladies and Gentlemen - The relationship between the United States and Israel is a true friendship, one rooted not only in our shared values, but also our willingness to protect those values in the face of adversity.

In 2017, I visited Israel with then Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The unique friendship shared by our two nations was immediately clear to me, and as one of only two Jewish Republican members of Congress, it was deeply moving. 

One Friday morning, hours before Shabbat began, our delegation traveled to Masada, where we viewed and touched the ruins of the royal citadel. Standing on the ground where the Jewish people refused to succumb to Roman rule was an important reminder of the courage of our ancestors and the responsibility we have to carry on that legacy.

Today, 7 years later, it is my honor to stand before you as the Chairman of the House-Knesset Parliamentary Friendship Group. 

I do want to tell you I also appreciate the continued commitment from our House Speaker Mike Johnson and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries in that endeavor. They are fully and absolutely on board. 

The House-Knesset Parliamentary Friendship Group is the first official forum between our nations’ legislative bodies and will serve as a direct connection between members of Congress and members of the Knesset.

Mr. Speaker - When Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited Israel to announce the establishment of this group in May of last year, he said that “Peace, liberty, and prosperity are the foundations of your nation’s success.”

He is right of course. But let me just add - these qualities are also the foundations of the America’s success, and ultimately the reason our nations share a special bond.

We must do everything in our power to not only preserve that bond, but to also strengthen that bond.

The Friendship Group will increase collaboration and cooperation between our governments, and further strengthen the special relationship between the United States and Israel for decades to come.

Speaker Ohana, when you and former Speaker Kevin McCarthy created this friendship group last year, I am sure you did not know how timely it would be. 

We all know that Israel is surrounded by evil on all sides. On October 7th, that evil reared its ugly head. Terrorists killed innocent Israelis and tore apart families in cold blood. 

Everyone remembers where they were that tragic morning. To all of us, the world just stopped. I will tell you that many American Jews went to bed on October 6th as progressives and woke up the next morning as conservatives. 

My message today is this - The United States stands with Israel and the Jewish people.

In the darkest days, our friends matter the most. 

Sadly, some of my colleagues have forgotten that. Like you, I was extremely disappointed to see the highest-ranking Jewish official in the history of Congress stand up on the floor of the United States Senate and call for a new election for one of our allies.

We do not do that in the United States. 

Let me assure you that does not reflect the will of most Americans or Members of Congress. The world should know that our nations’ friendship is stronger today than ever before.

Yesterday, Speaker Ohana, MK Bissmuth, MK Roll, and I traveled to Kfar Aza and the Nova Festival site. It is one thing to be briefed in Washington about the horrors of October 7th. However, I wanted to come to Israel to bear witness to the atrocities of that day. 

I saw with my own eyes, and heard the real-life stories, not only from those that survived, but also about those being held captive and those who were brutally murdered.

In your fight to eradicate Hamas and any other genocidal extremist group that threatens your way of life, America is with you all the way.

We will not negotiate with radical terrorists, we will not surrender to killers, and we will not allow evil to prosper.  

This fight is not one to endure alone.  This is OUR fight.  We will work together until we wipe terrorism off the face of the Earth and until Israel can live in peace with her neighbors. 

The same holds true for the blatant and brazen forms of antisemitism that have arisen here, in the United States, and around the world.  Let’s be very clear—we must stand firm and strong to all of those who spew antisemitic language and hatred.  I am proud to have led resolutions from the Floor of the United States House of Representatives condemning antisemitism in all of its forms.

But the fight continues. 

As Chairman of the House-Knesset Parliamentary Friendship Group, I will do everything in my power to make sure Israel has the tools it needs to defend itself and destroy the forces that seek not only your destruction, but the destruction of the entire western world, and with it, the values we all hold dear.

It is a true honor to be here with you all today, to help lead this group, and work with our greatest ally in the Middle East, Israel. 

Ladies and Gentlemen – Thank you all very much. May God bless Israel and may God bless the United States of America.

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