Israel's ability to defend itself is essence of independence

On 70th anniversary, Netanyahu says Israel’s light will beat enemies’ ‘darkness’

Jewish state is ‘a rising world power,’ says PM in combative speech at torch-lighting ceremony ushering in Independence Day

Michael Bachner is a news editor at The Times of Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of Israel's 70th anniversary celebrations, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of Israel's 70th anniversary celebrations, at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a fiery address at a torch-lighting ceremony marking Israel’s 70th Independence Day, declared that the Jewish state is becoming a “world power” and said its light will overcome its enemies’ “darkness.”

“We’re turning Israel into a rising world power,” Netanyahu said at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem before lighting a torch on behalf of all the governments of Israel since the founding of the state.

The prime minister thanked US President Donald Trump for his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move its embassy to the holy city next month.

Calling Israel’s current relationship with the United States a “historic one,” Netanyahu said, “Thank you, President Trump! Thank you America!”

Alluding to unprecedentedly bellicose rhetoric from Iran, the prime minister vowed that no one would “extinguish” Israel’s “light.”

“All the ancient peoples who were exiled from their lands vanished and scattered all over the place. Only we, the Jewish people, who were like a leaf blown away in the storm of exile, refused to disappear and remained faithful to Zion,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lights a torch at Israel’s 70th anniversary celebrations at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017 (GPO screenshot)

“In the year 70 AD the menorah went out, but today in Israel’s 70th anniversary, the menorah is our country’s symbol and its light is stronger than ever.”

Addressing enemies of Israel, Netanyahu proudly stated that “in another 70 years, you’ll find here a country that is many times stronger because what we’ve done until today is just the beginning!

“Today there are those who want to extinguish… the light in Zion. I promise you, this will not happen because our light will always overcome their darkness. We are as strong and determined as ever,” he declared to the crowd’s applause.

“We don’t hesitate to confront those who want to eradicate us, because we know that defending ourselves with our own force is the essence of independence,” Netanyahu added. “Our hand is outstretched for peace with any of our neighbors who seek peace.

“Admiration toward Israel is finally trickling to Arab countries. Here, I believe, lie real seeds for peace,” he said.

He said Israel would always rise to the challenge of defending itself against its enemies if necessary. Its capacity to defend itself, by itself, he said, is “the essence of independence.”

Netanyahu recognized the disagreements in Israeli society but called for citizens to maintain mutual respect and understanding.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein addresses the annual Independence Day ceremony at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl military cemetery, April 18, 2018 (screen capture: GPO)

Preparations for the official ceremony were overshadowed this year by a bitter row between Edelstein and Culture Minister Miri Regev over Netanyahu’s determination to attend the event and address the invited guests. Traditionally, the Knesset speaker is the most senior official at the event and it is kept free of politics. Edelstein, who initially wanted to boycott the event, reached a compromise deal allowing Netanyahu to light a torch and make a short speech.

But the “short” speech, for which the prime minister was given five minutes, extended for almost 14 minutes, far longer than Edelstein’s own eight-minute-long address.

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