President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu traveled to Sde
Boker on Tuesday to honor the memory of Israel’s founding prime minister David
Ben-Gurion on the 39th anniversary of his death.
The president and the
prime minister were in Sde Boker immediately following a number of Color Red
alerts signifying the arrival in the area of rockets from Gaza. It was public
knowledge that the two men would be attending the memorial
Peres could not refrain from addressing the situation in which
the residents of the South find themselves, especially because it was
Ben-Gurion’s dream to settle the region and make the Negev green.
praised the courage and the stoicism of the residents of the South in their
ability to endure the missiles fired by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist
groups supported by Iran. “They seek to break our spirit,” he said.
want the mothers of Israel to know no rest. They [the terrorists] are the ones
who are escalating the conflict and then complain about the heat of the
Israel is targeting the terrorist criminals, he said, and is doing
its utmost to avoid harming innocent civilians – and not for the first
From the first day that Ben-Gurion served as prime minister, Peres
recalled, he was fired on even before he could taste the joy of statehood. At
its very genesis, the State of Israel had a war thrust upon it.
Israel’s morality, even in its nascent state, rose above the assault, he
“Ben-Gurion fashioned the quality of our forces, the quality of the
individual and the bravery of the soldier,” he said.
From the dawn of
statehood, said Peres, Ben-Gurion put security and peace as the highest
priorities. He saw service in the army as a mission. Under his leadership the
IDF developed new weapons and defense systems capable of meeting the challenges
of the future. He used to say of the IDF: “I don’t know if this is the best army
in the world, but I don’t know of any better.”
As defense minister, said
Peres, Ben-Gurion was responsible for the establishment of defense industries,
including Israel Aircraft Industries (today Israel Aerospace Industries),
putting extraordinary emphasis on research and development.
He knew even
then how much the nation depended on innovation and
Looking back at Israel’s military achievements, Peres
was confident that just as Israel has emerged triumphant from all the wars in
which it was engaged, it will also triumph over terrorism. He underscored how
much the nation owes to the IDF, to the Mossad, to the Shin Bet (Israel Security
Agency), to the police and to the rescue forces.
In the War of
Independence, Israel fought to guarantee the birth of the state, he
“Today we fight in order to ensure that mothers can raise their
children in safety and security.”
Peres expressed sorrow for the
suffering of Gazan civilians, and declared that this could have been avoided had
the terrorist organizations desisted from firing on Israel. Israel did not start
the hostilities, he stressed, and Israel will never agree to be a passive
Yet despite the belligerence to which Israel is subjected, Peres
has not lost his dream for peace, a dream that he inherited from Ben-Gurion who
said that he would not want to be the person who at any time rejected a chance
for peace between Jews and Arabs. Even at the risk of failure, he would not
cease in his quest for peace, Ben-Gurion said.
Netanyahu said that among
the projectiles intercepted by the Iron Dome were several long-range rockets
capable of reaching the heart of Israel.
Like Peres, the prime minister
was full of praise and admiration for the people of the South who have had the
psychological stamina to withstand the constant rocket attacks from
Netanyahu added that inasmuch as the IDF is making every effort to
refrain from harming innocent civilians, this is becoming an increasingly
difficult mission, because Hamas is storing its weapons in sensitive places such
as schools, hospitals and mosques. Under these circumstances, it is almost
impossible to avoid hitting women and children when targeting weapon caches.