Madam Prime Minister and our very distinguished guests this evening:
As I look around this room, I see several Members of the Senate and the House who have been here before during this administration's dinners in this State Dining Room, and who have seen the heads of state and heads of government who have been here.
All of them were very distinguished leaders of their countries but, as you know, this is the first time that in this administration we have had the honor to receive the head of government of another state who also is a woman.
Now that, naturally, should give a great deal of opportunity for a President of the United States, in welcoming the Prime Minister, to remark about her unusual capabilities, not only in her official capacity but as a woman. And I can only say this, that I am reminded of the fact that David Ben-Gurion [Israel's first Prime Minister], in referring to our very distinguished guest this evening, referred to her as the best man in his Cabinet.
I also recall the old Jewish proverb to the effect that man was made out of the soft earth and woman was made out of a hard rib.
Now, I do not mean by these references to indicate that the Prime Minister whom we honor tonight, is one who does not have those very remarkable and unique qualities that we admire in the women of her country and the women of our own country, and the women of the world. But what I would like to say very simply is this: that throughout the history of her people, a history that we know very well in this country, a history that we heard even the Marine Band and our Strolling Strings attempt to represent by music very briefly a few moments ago, we know that very capable women and strong women have played a remarkable and important part in that history.
In Biblical terms, we remember Deborah, 3,000 years ago. The Bible tells us very little about Deborah, except that she loved her people and served them well. Then, if I may paraphrase, it concludes with this one thought: that there was peace in the land for 40 years.
Madam Prime Minister, as we welcome you here at this dinner, and as we meet with you today and tomorrow on the occasion of this visit, what is really deepest in our hearts is the hope that history will record that after your service as Prime Minister there was peace in the land for 40 years and longer.
When we think back on your people, a war every 10 years; when we think back on your people going back through the century, how they have suffered, we know how much the word "peace" means.
We can say to you that while it is fashionable in the great councils of the world to talk rather casually about peace, and while it is, of course, expected that at events like this we use that term almost in an offhand way, that we feel it very deeply here. We feel it because the people of Israel deserve peace. They have earned peace, not the fragile peace that comes with the kind of a document that neither party has an interest in keeping, but the kind of peace that will last, one that will last for 40 years or even longer.
I say that for another reason, too. I have had the privilege and I know that many of our friends around this room have had the privilege of .seeing what the people of this very small country have done in Israel, and it is a remarkable story.
With this immense military burden, with this tremendous budget that they have to bear in that respect, how they have made that land bloom, how they have made it productive. But also I have seen what the people of this country have done in other lands, in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America. People have gone from the State of Israel to these other lands in their own programs of assistance and advice and this kind of genius, this kind of ability, is very rare in the world. It is desperately needed in the world. It is desperately needed for the works of peace.
And for these and for so many other reasons, we simply want to say that we are very honored to have the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, and others in this distinguished party here in this room tonight. We are honored to pay tribute to a very brave and courageous people. We hope that as a result of our meeting that we will have taken a significant step forward toward that peace which can mean so much to the people of Israel, to the people of all the Mideast, and also to the people of the world.
Now I would like to ask you, in affirming that sentiment, to rise and raise your glasses with me to the Prime Minister.
Sources: Public Papers of the President