PM’s former IDF ‘Team Bibi’ celebrates his 70th birthday at 50th reunion
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PM’s former IDF ‘Team Bibi’ celebrates his 70th birthday at 50th reunion

Netanyahu praises the bond he says he still has with soldiers who served under him half a century ago

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends reunion of  team he commanded in the IDF General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, 22 October, 2019 (Koby Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends reunion of team he commanded in the IDF General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, 22 October, 2019 (Koby Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday attended the 50th reunion of “Team Bibi,” which he commanded when he served in the IDF’s elite General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal).

The event, which also included a celebration of the prime minister’s 70th birthday on Saturday, was held at the Crusader fortress at Kochav Hayarden National Park, where the team held a final training exercise 50 years ago.

The team, which gained its name from the prime minister’s nickname, sang the unit song and each member received a commemorative medal with an inscription.

“Fifty years ago, on the southern approach to Afula, I received these boys. They have not changed much, I must say. We marched 120 kilometers in order to reach the unit. We started a long training march ahead of the important missions we carried out as a team,” the prime minister said to those in attendance, according to a statement released by his office.

In this Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) file photo, then-Lieutenant Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Israeli President Zalman Shazar during a ceremony honoring the soldiers from the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit who freed the hostages in the Sabena Airlines hijacking, at the President’s residence on November 1, 1972 (GPO/Flash90)

“I would be happy if I could tell you everything that we did. But here, in this place, Kochav Hayarden, was the conclusion of an important exercise that took several days. They carried out all kinds of missions and reached this point where they received the unit insignia,” Netanyahu said.

“I would like to say that I had the privilege of having such soldiers. I have had the privilege that we have kept this bond, a very special and very strong bond. I can only wish that we will meet here in another 50 years.”

Netanyahu in February released a video seeking to emphasize his past in the elite military unit after Benny Gantz launched a blistering attack against him.

“You are attacking me, a soldier and officer in [special forces unit] Sayeret Matkal, who commanded many operations behind enemy lines, who was wounded in the [1972] operation to rescue the hostages of the Sabena plane, who almost lost my life in a shootout in the Suez Canal, who risked my life time after time for our country,” Netanyahu said.

The reunion was not the only way the prime minister’s birthday was marked on Tuesday — Netanyahu also received a letter from US President Donald Trump, who praised his Israeli counterpart, saying: “You are great!”

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