On May 24th, I had the privilege of attending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rousing address before a joint session of Congress. It was an event that was personally significant both as an American and as a legislator.
I was moved by the prime minister's words of strength in the face of the persistent danger that Israel faces. It made me proud, as an American, to know that even through difficult times the United States has always stood with its friend on the side of democracy and freedom.
Standing side by side with my fellow members of Congress during the prime minister's address was a proud moment for me as a legislator. Our country is facing difficult economic times, and we have all seen the divisive debates that take place in town hall meetings and even on the floor of the House itself. It was refreshing to see bipartisan support for such an important issue, knowing that we can still all agree on what is clearly right.
Prime Minister Netanyahu was correct in pointing out what we have all seen over the past year: the Arab Spring movement has created much uncertainty with regard to the future of a region that is already very unstable. Amid the shifting and often ambiguous landscape that is the Middle East, Israel, since its inception in 1948, has stood firm.
Last year, I had the moving experience of traveling to Israel myself. To those who say that America's support of Israel is a controversial issue, I say: not so.
As I walked the streets of Jerusalem, visiting holy sites in one of the world's most holy and breathtaking cities, it was not lost on me that as a Catholic, I was able to practice my faith and travel the city thanks to the religious freedoms protected by Israel — something that was regained only with the reunification of the city in 1967.
Walking through the different quarters of the city, I saw in practice what we as Americans stand for — true freedom. People of different backgrounds and faiths co-existing thanks to the security offered by a strong Israeli state. I saw Arab Israeli women who can drive and vote, and who have rights that no other Islamic state in the world has given them.
I once heard something that I feel rings true to this day: If the Palestinians were to throw down their arms, there would be peace; if Israelis were to throw down their arms, there would be a massacre. Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that Israel is ready to recognize a viable Palestinian state and work toward peace, but such work can only be done with a partner that is willing to recognize the other side and sit at the negotiating table.
Any Palestinian authority, in order to gain legitimate recognition and support, must be willing to renounce terrorism and recognize the right of Israel to exist. The peace Israel is working toward is a lasting peace, and as such, any concessions made must be sustainable and tenable.
President Barack Obama recently made reference to a return to the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations. I recognize that Israel has been extending the olive branch for decades now, and that a return to the 1967 borders is a non-starter, as these indefensible borders would not be able to guarantee the security of an Israeli state, and so would represent a step away from our goals of peace in the region. The United States does not negotiate with terrorists, and we cannot expect our allies to be beholden to them either.
America's partnership with Israel is based on shared morals and values, cemented by a common need to provide protection for our citizens and to stand for freedom, even when the path is not an easy one. It is a path that the United States has walked since its inception, and it is a path that Israel will never have to walk alone.
I will again be traveling to Israel on a congressional delegation with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) this summer. I look forward to visiting the Knesset and touring more of the country. Thanks to our continuing partnership, this is a privilege that will remain in place for people of all faiths the world over for generations to come.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan, a Republican member of the House, represents Pennsylvania's 7th district.