Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Gaza border, May 3, 2016.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
The nearly two years since Operation Protective Edge have been the quietest in the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control of the area in 2007, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during an unannounced visit to the Gaza border on Tuesday.
Hours after Netanyahu left, Palestinians fired on an IDF patrol near the fence in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.
Netanyahu, who went to the site of a large terrorist tunnel from Gaza into Israel that was discovered last month, was accompanied by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Eyal Zamir and other top IDF officials. He received a briefing there on the security situation in the area.
Speaking to Golani soldiers in a grove of Eucalyptus trees, Netanyahu compared the situation today where IDF soldiers are defending the country to the situation 70 years ago during the Holocaust when “we were like a leaf driven in the wind, with no defense force, helpless. They massacred us, slaughtered us.”
Today, he said, “we have a country, an army, the ability to defend ourselves in this sector, in all sectors – near and far – and what motivates me is to secure the future of Israel in its land.”
The Jewish people, he said, has no future without its country.
Netanyahu praised the soldiers for their “spirit,” saying this is what makes the army what it is.
Touching on a theme he frequently repeats, Netanyahu said Israel is an isle of stability in a very stormy Middle East sea.
“We are in the eye of the storm, I want you to know this,” he said.
“ A half million people have been murdered around us in Syria, which is collapsing. Iraq has collapsed, neither of them – actually – still exist. Yemen collapsed, Libya collapsed.”
As a result, the premier said, there is a massive flow of migrants to Europe who are “running for their lives.”
And, amid it all, Netanyahu said, Israel is the most stable, quietest and safest country in the region.
He touched again on the Holocaust later in the day when he and his wife Sara met in his Jerusalem office with the six Holocaust survivors who will light the torches at the ceremony Wednesday evening at Yad Vashem that will mark the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Netanyahu said it was highly symbolic that 70 years after the worst tragedy to befall the Jews the group was sitting in the room where the cabinet meets, the “center of the Jewish people’s sovereignty in its new state, in its old land.”
The prime minister, who heard the tales of the survivors, said he always asks himself: “What would have happened if we and our children were placed in a similar situation,” and that he was awed by the survivors’ “spirit and ability to go through those tribulations, survive and build.”
Netanyahu said he always tells the world leaders he accompanies to Yad Vashem that he has one mission: “One Yad Vashem is enough, one time, it won’t happen a second time.”
The prime minister told the survivors that Jew hatred has not disappeared, and today is directed toward the Jewish state.
“But the state is very, very strong, and its strength is our strength, the strength of your lives. It will not happen again.”
Speaking for the group was Zehava Roth who was born in Poland in 1935 and smuggled by her mother out of the Krakow Ghetto when she was seven years old. She told the Netanyahus about the moment when she was separated from her parents, and her mother knew she would never see her daughter again.
Roth said her mother wanted to give her an enduring life lesson, and told her in Yiddish: “Don’t forget that you are a Jewish girl. It is as if she gave me a command to continue the perpetuation of the Jewish people.”
By God’s grace, she said, she arrived in Israel, raised a family and now has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In that, she said, there is consolation.