Peres, Netanyahu at IAF ceremony 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
At an annual ceremony on Sunday honoring deceased presidents and prime
ministers, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
emphasized the importance of remembering national leaders, their deeds, and
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Both men spoke at the gathering at Beit Hanassi. The
ceremony is usually held in the spring, on the first day of the Hebrew calendar
month of Nissan, which is known as the “New Year of Kings.”
ceremony, prizes are awarded by the president and prime minister to researchers
of politics and history who have produced the year’s best works related to
specific leaders. This year the ceremony was deferred because of incomplete
renovations at Beit Hanassi.
Looking back more than three decades, Peres
said that he still remembered the unforgettable image of Katzir and Begin
striding across the red carpet on the airport tarmac to greet Egyptian president
“It was like a fable from another world,” Peres recalled.
“It was an unprecedented development in relations between the two
Although he and Begin did not come from the same political
camp, Peres said, it did not prevent him from recognizing Begin’s greatness,
integrity and commitment to peace. Even when people in his party were against
him, Peres continued, Begin stood firm for what he believed in declaring that
war was preventable, but peace was inevitable.
Both Peres and Netanyahu
also underscored Begin’s uncompromising respect for the rule of law. It was very
important to him, each of them noted, to uphold the law and serve the nation.
Even when he was in the opposition, Peres said Begin was fond of saying that he
was proud to be a servant of the people.
As for Katzir, Peres said that
what he had done as a scientist for Israel’s security was remarkable. Katzir,
Peres noted, also laid the foundation for Israel’s hi-tech industry – adding
that although he was one of the world’s most renowned, prizewinning
biophysicists, he was an extraordinarily modest man.
Katzir for directing his scientific research towards national
“It has become increasingly clear that our security depends on
advanced technology,” said Netanyahu, who also discussed the great price that
Katzir had to pay when he left his research to embark on public life.
was a prime example not only of modesty, but of personal sacrifice,” said
When discussing Begin, Netanyahu said that he was so
multi-faceted that it was difficult to describe him.
Begin, he said, was
a great statesman, whose leadership was evident even before Israel came into
being, said Netanyahu.
The prime minister also lauded Begin for
preventing a civil war after the Altelana ship – which carried hundreds of
Holocaust survivors and armaments – was fired upon by Yitzhak Rabin on David
Begin, Netanyahu added, also sought to improve the
economy, eradicate poverty and provide equal opportunities for all citizens.
Indeed, he was a great believer in social justice, said Netanyahu.
this context, Netanyahu turned to Israel’s housing problem and said: “The
housing market suffers from cartels, with no equal in the developed
He also doubted that any other country rivaled Israel’s
bureaucratic red tape strangling the planning aspect of housing.
change this, and we will introduce dramatic legislation in order to do so,” he
Arye Naor, who was Begin’s first cabinet secretary and one of the
winners of prizes and citations at Sunday’s ceremony, said that Begin had come
to office with a clear social agenda.
“He didn’t achieve everything that
he wanted, but he did change the course of history,” Naor said.