Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Eshkol

June 01, 1964

Mr. Prime Minister, Mrs. Eshkol, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

Tonight we are honoring the Prime Minister of a country and a people whose record of industry and dedication and single-minded devotion to progress is very inspiring. The people of Israel have labored long and hard to make of their ancient land a highly developed and most modern nation.

Their achievements are remarkable. Toil and sweat alone are not responsible for such success. The spirit and the dedication of your people, Mr. Prime Minister, have been the inspiration for their labors. Yet you face, more than most countries, continuing challenges to the resourcefulness of your people. In meeting these challenges, you shall have, as you have had in the past, such support as we can give you.

Mr. Prime Minister, you told me only this morning that water was blood for Israel. So we shall make a joint attack on Israel's water shortage through the highly promising technique of desalting. Indeed, let us hope that this technique will bring benefit to all of the peoples of the parched Middle East. We shall also hope and work for the solution of the problems that divide Israel and its neighbors. With patience, with good will, with courage and determination, we can and we must resolve these issues.

We welcome you here tonight, Mr. Prime Minister, as representative of a country for which we have great admiration and affection. So I ask those, my guests, my beloved friends, who have come here tonight, to join me in a toast to the Prime Minister of Israel, to his charming and gracious wife, to continued close friendship between our two countries.

Note: The President proposed the toast at a dinner in the State Dining Room at the White House. Prime Minister Eshkol responded as follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Johnson, distinguished guests:

Mrs. Eshkol and I will long remember the kind and gracious hospitality of Mrs. Johnson and yourself, Mr. President.

Over the years, my vocations in farming, Mr. President, as you know, in water projects, in land settlement, in economics, has kept me close to ordinary people, to their hopes, and problems, and to their understanding of relationships between peoples.

Long before I became active in the political life of my country, I knew of the waves of friendship coming from this great country to our people struggling to renew its independence in the land of its fathers. For the common man in Israel, no less than for its leaders, the very word "America" carried with it hope and encouragement.

As I become more and more acquainted with our international relationships, I have learned how lasting, indeed, is the debt of gratitude we owe to the American people for its unbroken friendship over the years. It is a friendship which is engraved for all time on the tablets of our renewed nationhood. Moreover, as I have met more and more people from other new countries, I can say that American leadership of the free world and its partnership with the developing countries are acknowledged.

Criticism finds its way to the headlines far more easily than appreciation. But as the Psalmists said, "Truth springs from the earth." American aid and sympathy will not be forgotten. Despite the points of international tension, I think it is true to say that in strengthening freedom throughout the world, since World War II, the patient effort of your great country has borne fruit.

Today it is widely recognized that the balance of hope is with the forces of freedom. Mr. President, I would like, especially, to thank you for your friendly, nice words you said tonight, in addition to what we discussed this morning in your office. May I say that this great hope of freedom and peace is greatly strengthened by the knowledge that leading the forces of freedom there is a man with a deep faith, an understanding of ordinary people, outstanding public experience, and the pragmatic touch.

My country is small in area. I said today to the President, I think that Israel is maybe smaller than the smallest county in Texas. When, Mr. President, as we hope, you and Lady Johnson visit us, you may express surprise that our country, which as I said this morning is not too big, is burdened with such great problems. However, as history will show, our land has never been judged by its geography or by its physical capacity only.

Through its spiritual contribution, it has found its place in human thought. It is this faith which encourages us in the belief that the problems we face will ultimately be settled and the help that you, Mr. President, promised tonight is very much appreciated and we will cherish it for a long time. Reunited as we are once again with our land, after close to 2,000 years of separation, we feel that faith has its reward.

It is faith which has brought us thus far and, if I may say so, it is this faith, rooted in the biblical heritage, which is at the basis of the United States-Israel friendship. We hope, Mr. President, that under your leadership this friendship will deepen in the years ahead.

I am limited in my use of the English language, otherwise I would speak to you--not read from the paper. I still hope that my meaning is clear, for as the ancient Hebrew saying goes, "Words that come from the heart, go to the heart."

In proposing a toast to you, Mr. President, may I cite the traditional toast of my people, "Le chayim tovim uleshalom." It means, "To a good life and peace." To you, who are dedicated to bringing the good life and peace to your own people and to the world, ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States of America.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Eshkol Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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