PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN pays his respects at the commemoration ceremony in Sde Boker yesterday in memory of Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion..
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
A sufficient time-out from the marathon Knesset voting session on the national budget enabled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, opposition leader Isaac Herzog and several ministers and MKs to join President Reuven Rivlin and former president Shimon Peres at the annual commemoration ceremony in Sde Boker to mark the anniversary of the death of Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Born in October 1886, Ben-Gurion, who was concurrently prime minister and defense minister, died on December 1, 1973, but the anniversary of his death is always commemorated in accordance with the Hebrew calendar date.
Peres, who together with Israel’s fifth president, Yitzhak Navon, who died almost two weeks ago, has been a lifelong disciple of Ben-Gurion, said that Israel yearns for statesmanlike and fearless leadership, a brand of leadership that safeguards national unity even when there are issues of dispute.
Peres referred to Ben-Gurion’s leadership as one that radiated hope for peace, and declared that without accepting a twostate solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel would be doomed to exist as a binational state that will eventually lose its Jewish majority.
Citing Ben-Gurion’s philosophy, Peres said that Israel’s hand would always be stretched out in peace, but that Israel would fight uncompromisingly against any act of terrorism against the state and its people.
Rivlin also referred to the murderous wave of terrorism targeting innocent citizens of Israel and the world, and said that Ben-Gurion had been familiar with terrorism and bereavement. Sde Boker itself had been a place of suffering and terrorist attacks, said Rivlin.
Quoting extensively from Ben-Gurion’s writings, Rivlin related to what Ben-Gurion had written about the centuries-old dream of Jews for a sovereign state of their own, dreams that in contemporary times had been vanquished by Hitler. Ben-Gurion had been haunted by the thought of the millions of Jews who could have helped to found the state, and instead had been annihilated. He wrote of those who died of hunger, and those who were hapless refugees. The only way to rehabilitate the Jewish people was to establish a state.
And thus with tenacity and vision, that was what “the old man” – as Ben-Gurion was known – went ahead and did, building up a small army along the way.
Whoever looks at the Middle East today understands what troubled Ben-Gurion, said Rivlin. “All around us we see states without a people, without a nation, states that are collapsing within themselves, states without any sense of direction, states that have lost their ethos and their common language.
“Today we can honestly say that the State [of Israel] uplifted the people, and the people built the state. We have been privileged to have a national homeland for the Jewish people and at the same time to be a member of the developed countries of the world.” For that, said Rivlin, a great measure of thanks is due to the statesmanship that built not just a state but a nation.
Terrorism was also the main thrust of Netanyahu’s address. He compared the battle against terrorism today with Ben-Gurion’s reprisals against terrorists, and castigated Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Walstrom for linking terrorism to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He characterized her remarks as a form of blindness, and found it absurd that there are some in the world who tend to blame Israel rather than the terrorists who are perpetrating violence and murder.
Israel is simultaneously fighting terrorism and incitement to terrorism, declared Netanyahu.
In allegorical terminology, Netanyahu said that Israel wants peace, just as Ben-Gurion wanted peace.
“We would like to sheathe our swords, but if our option is live by the sword or to live with the sword of radical Islam at our throats, we choose the first option,” he said.
“It’s time to stop blaming ourselves for the current wave of terrorism. The victims are not the guilty ones,” he stated, reminding all those who heap blame in the wrong direction that radical Islam has publicly stated its intention to wipe out Europe and impose Islamic rule.