'Traitor,' 'Con': Bennett Heckled by Bereaved Families at Memorial Day Event

'You're allowed to shout, and you're allowed to hurt,' the prime minister tells families in the crowd. In his speech, he says the Palestinian 'enemy' chooses to 'wallow in poverty, misery and a constant sense of victimhood'

Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz
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A member of the audience shouts at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a Memorial Day ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, on Wednesday.
A member of the audience shouts at Prime Minister Naftali Bennett during a Memorial Day ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, on Wednesday.Credit: Emil Salman
Aaron Rabinowitz
Aaron Rabinowitz

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was met with protests at the start of an event honoring Israelis killed in terror attacks. Some bereaved families in the audience at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl shouted at him, "traitor," "pushover" and "con."

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The prime minister, as well as Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, faced similar protests during other Memorial Day events, criticizing them for their political partnership with the United Arab List, an Arab party in Israel's ruling coalition.

Bennett told the crowd, "Bereaved families are sacred. You're allowed to shout, and you're allowed to hurt."

After several minutes, Bennett began his scripted speech, vowing to do more to prevent terror attacks.

"We are dealing a terror wave these days, too," he said. "This wave has unique features, like each of the waves we've experienced. In the past it was bus bombings; during another time it was youths with knives; at times it has been organized terrorism, and during other times it was lone-wolf attacks… But the motivation remained the same – making our lives here, in our homeland in the Land of Israel, hell."

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaking at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, on Wednesday.Credit: Emil Salman

"If only our enemies had put a tenth of the energy put into harming us into building their own future, their situation would have been entirely different," Bennett added. "But they choose sanctifying death, which leaves them to wallow in poverty, misery and a constant sense of victimhood."

"No one will break the Israeli spirit," the prime minister said. "Nothing will move us from here."

He thanked Israel's security forces for their role in preventing attacks and apprehending assailants.

"No place is off limits for us," he said. "We'll find them in any way possible… There will be no restrictions or limitations in the war on terrorism. Our superior moral duty is to protect our lives at all costs."

Earlier on Wednesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at a memorial event: "We have a duty to embrace bereaved families, whichever path they choose, and to accept their criticism, too, with love – because they are the ones who have paid the price."

Gantz also urged unity, adding that public leaders "should put disagreements aside" on this day. The memory of fallen soldiers "should be beyond dispute," he said.

During Bennett's speech earlier on Wednesday at the same venue, honoring Israel's fallen soldiers, a woman who lost her daughter, Shir Hajaj, in a 2017 attack in Jerusalem held up a banner, reading: "Bennett, those who form a government with terror supporters aren't welcome here," referring to the Bennett-led coalition's collaboration with the United Arab List. 

A year ago, far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich protested the Bennett-United Arab List partnership, also invoking Hajaj's death at the family's request.

The mother, Merav, put down her sign after being asked to do so by another bereaved parent who was also at the ceremony.

Tuesday night marked the start of Israel's Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror. An annual one-minute siren sounded throughout the country at 8 P.M., followed by a two-minute siren at 11 A.M. Wednesday.

Fifty-six names have been added to Israel's list of those who have fallen in war over the past year since last Memorial Day, the Defense Ministry said on Friday.

An additional 84 wounded veterans died as a result of their injuries or disabilities sustained during military service this past year, bringing the total number of people who have died in service since 1860 to 24,068.

The list includes members of various pre-state underground militias, the Jewish Legion, which served in World War I and the Jewish Brigade, which fought in World War II, as well as members of the Israel Defense Forces, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad, the Israel Police and the Israel Prison Service.

Independence Day, which begins at 7:45 P.M. Wednesday night and runs through Thursday, will for the first time run largely without fireworks following requests by Israeli veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

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