Democracy is not only a government that represents a majority of the people, but also one where the rights of every individual are respected, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, referring to the revolutions sweeping the Arab world.
Netanyahu, who because of his leg injury did not attend the annual July 4 celebration at the home of the US ambassador in Herzliya, sent a taped video message instead in which he said real democracy is not merely holding popular elections, but also about what happens between elections.
While Netanyahu said that there was "ample reason for skepticism" whether the nations of the region will join the US and Israel in becoming true democracies in the short term, "in the long term I believe there is reason for hope."
That reason, he said, was because "with the spread of information technology it will become increasingly difficult to keep young minds closed, cloistered in darkness."
Ultimately, Netanyahu said "the power of freedom is bound to prevail" and the people of the Middle East will "enjoy the rights that we in free societies too often take for granted."
President Shimon Peres, speaking at the ceremony, praised US President Barack Obama's commitment to Israel and said that he was convinced that on the issue of stopping Iran's nuclear march Obama "will stand on this issue strong as a lion."
US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, during his remarks, mentioned the Iranian issue as one in which there was close cooperation between the two countries.
Shapiro, who delivered part of his comments in Hebrew, said he could think of no people with whom it was more appropriate to celebrate America's independence than with the people of Israel. "No people with whom we identify more closely, no people whose story more closely resembles our own."
Shapiro said that no one could match Israelis for their energy, creativity, guts and spirit, and that throughout years of tremendous challenge, Israel's commitment to democratic values has proven "strong, lasting and resilient."
One "special" guest at the event was Jewish US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, on a three week visit -- her first ever -- to Israel.
"All of you know of course how much Israel means to American Jews, like me, but it also means a great deal too American judges and lawyers, and that is because of Israel's great commitment -- a commitment our two countries share -- to the rule of law, and to an independent judiciary that helps sustain it," she said.
Kagan said this "devotion to the rule of law" was an "amazing commitment given Israel's history and all the dangers and threats it has faced."
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