Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Vilna Gaon's tombstone in Lithuania, August 2018.
(photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)
Israel’s intelligence services are saving European lives, and “it is time that Europe understood this,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday during the final day of his four-day visit to Lithuania.
In a number of his public statements during the visit, Netanyahu thanked Lithuania for its support in various EU forums, where he said the Jewish state is badly misunderstood.
He did the same Sunday at an event with the local Jewish community at the historic Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, attended by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius. This is the sole synagogue still standing and in use in a city that before the Holocaust had some 100 synagogues.
Turning to the foreign minister, Netanyahu said, “I want to thank you, Linas, for standing up for Israel and the truth in European forums, for telling your colleagues the service that Israel performs in saving so many European lives by our resourceful and brave intelligence people. We have saved so many European lives in so many countries. Israel in many ways is the defender of Europe and it’s time that Europe understood this.”
Netanyahu has said a number of times in the past that the country’s intelligence services have provided information that has stopped dozens of major terrorist attacks in Europe, including attacks involving “civil aviation.” In June, it was reported the Mossad helped thwart an Iranian plot to bomb an Iranian resistance rally in Paris. An Iranian diplomat in Austria was arrested for alleged involvement in the plan.
Netanyahu also thanked the Lithuanian government for its strong stance against antisemitism, “and for standing up for the truth, a constant effort, constantly nurtured.”Netanyahu traveled to Vilnius on Thursday
to take part in a summit with the leaders of three Baltic countries – Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia – as part of his policy of developing sub-alliances inside Europe to counter what he feels is unfair treatment Israel gets from the EU bureaucracy based in Brussels.
“We have many friends in the world today, more than people understand, including in the Arab world, but none greater than the United States of America,” he said.
“Yet with all this friendship and all this support, when I stand here today in the Choral Synagogue in Vilnius, in Vilna, and after the wrenching visit on Friday to the death pits in Ponary, I know there are two lessons of the Holocaust we shall never and must never forget,” Netanyahu said.
“The first is this: Nip bad things in the bud. Stop bad things when they are small. Fight barbarism and terrorism and radicalism when they’re small. Don’t let them become large. The second is be able to defend yourselves, Jews, be able to defend yourselves by yourselves. This is the meaning of the Jewish state. This is what we have done and this is what we will always do.”
Netanyahu noted in his speech that his family has deep Lithuanian roots.
“I’m a Litvak from both sides,” he said, using a word denoting Jews from Lithuania. “I return to Vilna as the head of a proud, strong, advanced Jewish state.”
Netanyahu said while there still exist those who want to destroy the Jewish state – such as Hamas and Iran – “What has changed is our ability to defend ourselves by ourselves. We are no longer defenseless. We are no longer helpless. We are a power that controls our own destiny with the State of Israel and the army of Israel. This is a magnificent change of history. This is what the Jewish state means – the ability of Jews to defend themselves.”
Before returning to Israel, he went to the Lithuanian national library and looked at its Jewish book collection, including a commentary on Psalms dating back to 1512, other ancient religious texts, and manuscripts of the writings of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Chaim Nahman Bialik and Shaul Tchernichovsky, among others.
He also visited the grave of famed Rabbi Elijah ben Solomon Zalman (1720-1797), known as the Vilna Gaon. Netanyahu traces his lineage back to the rabbinic giant.
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