AIPAC National Summit on Foreign Policy and Politics Remarks


By:  Deval Patrick
Date: Oct. 15, 2012
Location: Boston, MA

Thank you, David, for your introduction and your friendship. And welcome everyone to Boston.

Last year, I led an economic development mission to Israel. I was accompanied by an extraordinary group of civic leaders representing all sectors of Massachusetts, from business and government, education and the non-profit sector. We met with President Shimon Peres, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, then-Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni, the Deputy Foreign Minister and other senior officials, a group of Israeli entrepreneurs, and a group of Palestinian entrepreneurs, and visited Yad Vashem, the extraordinary Holocaust memorial. And that was just one day!

It was a grueling trip, but a productive one. Massachusetts and Israel have a special compatibility. We are both centers of innovation, with economies driven by education and entrepreneurship. For both, our greatest natural resource is brainpower. I was proud, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, to sign an agreement with the Government of Israel to support start-up companies in our respective innovation sectors. Through this agreement, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative will work with the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) in Israel to co-invest in R&D projects undertaken jointly by Massachusetts & Israeli companies.

This past June, I was joined here in Boston by Chief Scientist Avi Hasson to announce the first round of grants through this partnership. We are collaborating on some very exciting things. For example, one of the grants will help Lantheus Medical Imaging, Inc, of Massachusetts and Check-Cap, an Israeli company, together develop a 3-D imaging capsule that can be used to screen for polyps and lesions associated with colorectal cancer. If they are successful, they will revolutionize colonoscopies.

Just two weeks ago, due to the success of the first round of grants, we committed to another round. We are working with David Goodtree on water technology initiatives of interest in both countries and have launched a neuroscience research collaborative with several local companies doing joint research, in direct response to interests expressed to us by Israeli officials.

All of this is part of an effort to make Massachusetts a "home away from home" for Israeli companies, entrepreneurs and investors. Already, since the trade mission, several Israeli firms have established or expanded their presence in our state. One of those companies, Argo, is an Israeli-founded exoskeleton developer whose products are being used by American soldiers wounded in combat. Another company, EarlySense, is developing a contact-free patient monitoring system. After meeting with us in Israel, they chose our state as the site of their U.S. headquarters. These and other partnerships build on the compatible and complementary strengths of Israel and Massachusetts and are creating products that make life better for people across the globe.

My trip last year was my first visit to the Holy Land. I knew better than to trust the oversimplified versions of reality on the ground that you sometimes get in the news here. Israel is complicated. The neighborhood is complicated. But the energy, determination, creativity and joy of the Israeli people cannot be denied -- or understated.

I am not so foolish to claim that I know Israel after only one visit. But I want to. I understand her as a refuge, as a sacred destination, as a critical democracy in the region, as a strategic and economic partner to the United States, as a proud and independent Nation. But I understood that before I went. I am a supporter of Israel and her right to exist. That was so before I went, too.

What I think I understand a little more is her social complexities, her intense commitment to self-reflection, her ability to persevere and flourish in the face of enormous, existential challenges.

Shimon Peres put it better, of course. Israeli entrepreneurs and businesses, he told me, are so successful in the global economy not because Israelis as a nation have a history of innovation, but because they have had to innovate out of necessity. Israel, he explained, exports carrots to Russia. Now, here is Russia, full of lakes, with thousands of farms, importing carrots from an arid land with two lakes, as President Peres put it, "one dead, one dying." Somehow this tiny country has managed to not only to survive but to thrive in a fiercely competitive global economy with the deck completely stacked against them. In Peres's view, Israel is possessed of a special tenacity and a penchant for creativity that has lifted the nation and her people, and characterized their engagement with the world.

Like I said, that spirit of a people determined to shape their own future is something we recognize here, in Massachusetts and in America. The connection between American and Israel is deep and undeniable. I know that, you know that, most Americans know that, I think. I know President Obama knows that. At its most enduring, the basis for that relationship is non-partisan. I understand and acknowledge the strategic reasons for the commitment of the United States to Israel and of Israel to the United States -- but I think the relationship runs deeper than that. There is something in it on the level of values.

Having lived abroad, I know the experience of feeling like my clearest insights into the United States sometimes come from the perspective of being overseas. President Peres moved me deeply when he said during our visit that "America is the only superpower whose power comes not from taking but from giving." It's always struck me that ours is the only nation in human history are not organized around the things that countries are normally organized around. We are not organized around a common religion or language or culture, but instead around a handful of civic ideals. And we have defined these ideals over time and through struggle as equality, opportunity and fair play -- the essential ingredients of freedom. For that we are a beacon to the world.

America and Israel on that level, I think, by religion and aspiration, by faith and democracy, by pain and sacrifice. The notion of moral purpose -- in the language of the sacred, the charge of tikkun olam -- feels to me the deeper source of the bond between Israel and America, and the reason there can never be and must never be a breach.

Welcome to Boston. Have a productive meeting.

Thank you.

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.