Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands next to his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull during a ceremony to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba.
(photo credit: TOMER APPELBAUM HAARETZ/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a clear message on Tuesday to Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which may be planning to retaliate a day after the IDF destroyed a terrorist tunnel from Gaza: “Don’t test us.”
Speaking at the British Cemetery in Beersheba at a ceremony marking 100 years since the Battle of Beersheba, Netanyahu said, “We set out a simple policy: We seek peace with all our neighbors, but we will not tolerate any attacks on our sovereignty, on our people, on our land, whether from the air, from the sea, from the ground or below the ground.”
Netanyahu continued: “We attack those who seek to attack us. And those who contemplate that, I strongly advise you: Do not test the will of the State of Israel or the army of Israel.”
His words came amid an edginess in the south that Palestinian terrorists may retaliate for the destruction of the tunnel and the killing of a number of Islamic Jihad men inside.
At the ceremony, in the presence of visiting Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand’s Governor-General Patsy Reddy, as well as many other Australian and New Zealand dignitaries, Netanyahu said that what the Australian Light Horse Brigade accomplished in the battle of Beersheba has inspired generations of Israeli soldiers.
“We saw here in Beersheba 800 cavalry go against 4,000 embedded Turks with machine guns and bunkers,” he said.
“The few won against the many. That’s the spirit of the army of Israel, it stands today.”
Netanyahu said the “brave soldiers who are buried here played a crucial role in defeating the Ottoman Empire, liberating the Holy Land and ending 400 years of Ottoman rule in one great dash.”
The prime minister began his words by saying: “Nearly 4,000 years ago Abraham came to Beersheba, the City of Seven Wells.
Exactly 100 years ago, brave ANZAC soldiers liberated Beersheba for the sons of daughters of Abraham and opened the gateway for the Jewish people to enter the stage of history.”
Turnbull, who arrived on Monday evening for 48 hours to take part in the ceremonies, said the “mad Australians” who charged the Turkish positions and took the town of Beersheba “secured the victory that did not create the State of Israel, but enabled its creation.
“Had the Ottoman rule in Palestine and Syria not been overthrown by the Australians and New Zealanders, the Balfour Declaration would have been empty words, but this was a step for the creation of Israel,” he continued.
Turnbull said that while the men who fought in the battle could not have foreseen the “extraordinary success of the State of Israel, its resilience, its determination, its indomitability against overwhelming odds, the spirit was the same.
And, like the State of Israel has done ever since, they defied history, they made history, and – with their courage – they fulfilled history.”
The battle, Turnbull added, has become an integral part of Australian history and “part of our psyche.”
“It is an extraordinary episode in our national story – imagine these young men so far from home, out of the Australian bush, with their own horses, in a completely alien landscape, the only familiarity being the names of the places, and that from their Bible lessons,” he said.
“Their feats will never be forgotten, their memory never fade. The tradition of man and horse is a part of us, part of Australia, it always will be. This was the last great cavalry charge in history.”