Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Sunday to ensure that a minister would represent his government at every memorial ceremony for Israel’s wars, after no minister attended an event held earlier in the day at Mount Herzl to mark the 44th anniversary of the outbreak of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.Netanyahu apologized to families of the fallen for the snub, which he called “an unfortunate mistake.”“We have no greater obligation to our dear ones who fell in order to ensure we can live in our state,” Netanyahu said hours after former prime minister Ehud Barak expressed outrage at the ministers’ absence.“This is shameful and infuriating,” Barak wrote on Twitter.“This shames the soldiers who died. Where were Bibi and his ministers? Too busy making political appointments or at a political ceremony in Gush Etzion? This is a new low.”Labor leader Avi Gabbay added, “A government that does not respect its past and does not have an impressive present does not have much of a future.”Gabbay said none of the ministers thought it important enough to look into the eyes of the relatives of 2,222 fallen soldiers.
The government also sent no representative to the annual September 11 memorial event for the fallen victims of the attacks in the US last month.The Defense Ministry responded to the absence of a cabinet minister at Sunday’s ceremony by saying protocol required only one state representative and that President Reuven Rivlin and Deputy Knesset Speaker Hilik Bar were both proper representatives of the state. Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel said she attended a different ceremony for the same war at the same time.At the ceremony, Rivlin said that while the means of warfare have changed, the need to defend Israel’s security remains constant.According to the Gregorian calendar, the offensive against Israel began on October 6.Rivlin characterized the war as “the most bitter yet most beautiful hour of the people’s army.”When the military intelligence network collapsed and the generals conducted the war, faith – the need to fulfill the mission and wonderful examples of individual heroism – flourished, said Rivlin.The President lamented the decline in this sense of mission and the lack of motivation among today’s rookie soldiers to join combat units.This lack of motivation is worrisome said Rivlin because today, just as during the Yom Kippur War, it is imperative for Israel to have a strong army. “This has not changed,” he underscored. No one knows what awaits Israel in the future, he added, as the possibility of surprise always exists, and Israel cannot afford to be lax in the protection of the homeland.“We must find ways to restore the motivation of new recruits so that they will want to serve in combat units. This is a national challenge. We need you now,” Rivlin declared, addressing himself to grandsons and even the younger sons of veterans of the Yom Kippur War. “We want you determined, moral, courageous and believing in the justice of what you are doing. We cannot succeed without you.”Rivlin conceded that there are times when soldiers do not act in accordance with the basic values of the IDF, “but these are our values for success and for resilience.”
Amb Friedman speaks at a ceremony to remember 9/11 in Israel (Ziv Sokolov/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)