Speaking at an official ceremony marking the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War on Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the country will constantly reach out to its neighbors who seek peace, yet is always prepared to defend itself against those who seek war.
At the same ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin warned that even though the threats of today are not as great as they were on the eve of that 1973 war, the country cannot afford to become complacent.
The event took place at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, and commemorated 43 years since the beginning of the war.
The prime minister spoke of the peace deals that two of Israel’s neighbors concluded in the wake of the war, after realizing that they could not defeat Israeli militarily.
“The Yom Kippur War showed our neighbors that they cannot defeat us with weapons,” he said. “It paved the path to peace with Egypt and later with Jordan.”
Netanyahu offered peace to those countries who want peace, but warned those who are intent on attacking Israel.
“Our hands will continue to reach out to peace to those of our neighbors who want peace,” he said. “Until then, we will be prepared to defend ourselves with our own forces.”
He praised the fallen soldiers for their courage, crediting them with saving the state.
“Despite the tremendous shock we suffered, which came at a high price, the house remains standing thanks to one thing, the courage of our dear children who fought like lions until the threat was removed,” the prime minister said.
He also blamed Israel’s leaders at the time for ignoring the threats from the Arab nations and being caught unprepared for war.
“The war began not only because of the intentions of our enemies, but also because of the failures of our leaders. Their mistake cries out to heaven.”
Echoing his words at last year’s event, Rivlin warned against being seduced by a false sense of security based on the country’s military might.
“It is true that the State of Israel is not as threatened by its neighbors as it was at that time. Nevertheless, we are obligated to remember to be aware of the dangers crouching at the door and to be prepared to face them.
“The Yom Kippur War taught us not to give in to complacency,” the president said. “We must be ready simultaneously for the wars (like those) of the past, the challenges of the present and the threats of the future.”
He also spoke of the never-ending pain of the bereaved families.
“Families have grown, have rejoiced at celebrations and marked festivals, but one pain remains engraved in our hearts, the agonizing pain of loss, the pain of longing, the longing that has not dulled from that Yom Kippur of the past until that of today,” he said. “The loss has not subsided. Once again Yom Kippur comes and another time we gather on this mountain and try to remember.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, other senior military figures, and members of bereaved families also participated in the ceremony.
On October 6, 1973, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack on Israel as the Jewish state marked Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is observed with a 25-hour fast.
Although Israel was ultimately victorious after initial significant setbacks, over 2,500 soldiers were killed and hundreds taken captive, in sharp contrast to the swift and successful conclusion to 1967’s Six Day War.
In the wake of a public outcry against the government and the army for their failure to predict and prepare for attack, IDF chief of staff David Elazar resigned after a commission of inquiry recommended he be dismissed, and prime minister Golda Meir and her cabinet — including defense minister Moshe Dayan — subsequently resigned as well.