Vice President Biden, Speaker Boehner, distinguished senators, members of the House, honored guests, I'm deeply moved by this warm welcome, and I'm deeply honored that you've given me the opportunity to address Congress a second time.
Mr. Vice President, do you remember the time that we were the new kids in town? (Laughter, applause.) And I do see a lot of old friends here, and I see a lot of new friends of Israel here as well -- Democrats and Republicans alike. (Applause.)
Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel. (Applause.) We stand together to defend democracy. We stand together to advance peace. We stand together to fight terrorism. Congratulations, America. Congratulations, Mr. President: You got bin Laden. Good riddance! (Cheers, applause.)
In an unstable Middle East, Israel is the one anchor of stability. In a region of shifting alliances, Israel is America's unwavering ally. Israel has always been pro-American. Israel will always be pro-American. (Applause.)
My friends, you don't have to -- you don't need to do nation- building in Israel. We're already built. (Laughter, applause.) You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it. (Applause.) And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves. (Cheers, applause.)
You've been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own. Thank you all, and thank you, President Obama, for your steadfast commitment to Israel's security. I know economic times are tough. I deeply appreciate this. (Applause.)
Some of you have been telling me that your belief has been reaffirmed in recent months that support for Israel's security is a wise investment in our common future, for an epic battle is now under way in the Middle East between tyranny and freedom. A great convulsion is shaking the earth from the Khyber Pass to the Straits of Gibraltar.
The tremors have shattered states. They've toppled governments. And we can all see that the ground is still shifting.
Now, this historic moment holds the promise of a new dawn of freedom and opportunity. There are millions of young people out there who are determined to change their future. We all look at them. They muster courage. They risk their lives. They demand dignity. They desire liberty. These extraordinary scenes in Tunis, in Cairo, evoke those of Berlin and Prague in 1989. Yet, as we share their hopes --
You know, I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can now protest. You can't have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy. (Cheers, applause.)
So as we share the hopes of these young people throughout the Middle East and Iran, that they'll be able to do what that young woman just did -- I think she's young; I couldn't see quite that far --(laughter) -- we must also remember that those hopes could be snuffed out, as they were in Tehran in 1979. You remember what happened then.
The brief democratic spring in Tehran was cut short by a ferocious and unforgiving tyranny. And it's this same tyranny that smothered Lebanon's democratic Cedar Revolution and inflicted on that long- suffering country the medieval rule of Hezbollah.
So today the Middle East stands at a fateful crossroads. And like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty. (Applause.)
No one knows what this path consists of better than you.
Nobody. This path of liberty is not paved by elections alone. It's paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule. Israel has always embraced this path in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different. And this was seen -- (applause) -- thank you.
There was a great English writer in the 19th century, George Eliot. It's a she; that was a pseudonym in those days. George Eliot predicted over a century ago that, once established, the Jewish state -- here's what she said: "The Jewish state will shine like a bright star of freedom amid the despotisms of the East." Well, she was right.
We have a free press, independent courts, an open economy, rambunctious parliamentary debates -- (laughter) -- now, don't laugh -- (laughter) -- ah, you see? You think you're tough on another -- on one another here in Congress? Come spend a day in the Knesset. Be my guest! (Laughter, applause.)