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Remarks at F-35I Arrival Ceremony

Thank you, thank you. And what a beautiful, beautiful song. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

Good evening, everyone.

President Rivlin; Prime Minister Netanyahu; Minister Lieberman, my friend; General Eizenkot; General Eshel; ladies and gentlemen:  it’s a pleasure to be back in Israel, and to join all of you here at Nevatim for this historic ceremony. 

This evening, we’re celebrating the remarkable progress of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship, and also of an air force that began by flying leftover World War II planes and is now flying the most advanced aircraft in history. 

These F-35 stealth fighters are the first of 50 aircraft that will help build the future of the Israeli Air Force, and that’s thanks to a historic Memorandum of Understanding we signed this year in which the U.S. pledged an unprecedented $38 billion in security assistance over the next decade.  

And as of today, Israel is our first and only friend in the region that’s flying the F-35.  And it’s my honor to be here marking the delivery of these planes, the Adir, to America’s closest friend and ally in the region.

During my time as Secretary of Defense, I’ve traveled across this nation – from the northern border under threat from Hezbollah, to Nevatim here in the south today.  And during these visits, I’ve seen firsthand some of threats you face daily from many different directions. 

That’s one of the many reasons why the United States is committed to providing Israel with the most advanced military capabilities critical, not only to ensure Israel can defend itself but also to maintain its qualitative military edge.  And of course, there’s no better symbol of the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security than the F-35, the most capable aircraft in the skies.

I’m told that in Hebrew, Adir means “mighty one” – which is an apt name for aircraft that represent the full force of military might.  From its stealth technology to its fighter capabilities, the F-35 will allow pilots to evade detection and fly at supersonic speeds while conducting air defense; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and ground attack missions.  It also features advanced sensors and data collection capabilities that allow it to share data with other aircraft.  These information-sharing features, in particular, make it an ideal aircraft for joint and coalition operations, which will help the U.S. and Israel air forces operate more jointly – and more effectively – than ever before.  Together, we will dominate the skies.

As we celebrate Israel’s new F-35s this evening, it’s worth noting how important Israeli companies – as well as U.S. companies – were to the creation of this state-of-the-art aircraft.  From wing production to the helmet-mounted display to fuselage components, Israel’s innovative technologies have helped define this aircraft and its capabilities.  That’s one example, of many, that shows how our partnership benefits the security of both of our nations.   

While the F-35 is an important symbol of the America’s commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge, it’s only the most recent example of how our security cooperation continues to soar to new heights. 

We’re maintaining robust military assistance and funding critical missile defense systems like the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow, to name a few.  We’ve also expanded our cooperation into new domains – including space and cyberspace in the last few years – to prepare for 21st century threats.  And we’ll continue to provide Israel with the most advanced capabilities – including more F-35 Adirs – to further sharpen its qualitative military edge.

As we gather here today, the U.S.-Israel defense relationship is stronger than it’s ever been, and America’s pledge to defend Israel’s security remains unwavering. 

Indeed, with the current turmoil in the region, we’re more committed to Israel’s security today than ever before.  And from World War II surplus at the dawn of the Israeli state to stealth fighters today, the United States will continue to stand by its ally and friend Israel – as we have from the very beginning – as we have from the very beginning and will continue to do so long into the future. 

Thank you.