Bennett at Memorial Day Ceremony: 'A Regime That Funds Terrorism Will Pay a Price'

'The era of immunity has ended. They will pay a price even if they are a thousand kilometers away to the east,' the prime minister says ■ Shin Bet chief warns of 'violent discourse and incitement'

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Israel's Bennett and Israeli president Isaac Herzog at the Memorial Day ceremony on Wednesday.
Israel's Bennett and Israeli president Isaac Herzog at the Memorial Day ceremony on Wednesday. Credit: Emil Salman

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett touted Israel's "iron wall of strength" to protect the country from its enemies, speaking at a Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

"Citizens of Israel, we are fighting against a cruel and death-craving enemy," Bennett said at Mount Herzl. "Our enemy, instead of building their lives and future, is not letting go of its desire to destroy our lives."

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Israel will strike not just those who attack it directly, but also those who help them, Bennett said. "The era of immunity… has ended. It's not just the terrorist at the end of the chain who will pay a price, but also those who sent them, even if they are 1,000 kilometers to the east."

The distance between Israel and Iran is slightly over 1,000 kilometers (about 622 miles).

"A regime that funds terrorism, a regime that arms terrorists, a regime that gives the order for terrorists can no longer hide," he added.

People standing during the siren on Israel's Memorial day in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Israel's prime minister also vowed to bring back Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, two Israelis held in Gaza, and the bodies of soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, being held by Hamas.

During his speech, 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 party.

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.

'Put disagreements aside'

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

Ronen Bar, head of Israel's Shin Bet security agency, said at a memorial event at the organization's headquarters, "Our force has always been in our unity. On this day… we must remember the dangers of factionalism, the violent discourse and incitement that might lead us to a dangerous cliff edge."

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., which was followed by a two-minute siren set 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.

Sunday's announcement that Tel Aviv had canceled its fireworks display was the latest in a string of such moves that began three weeks ago with the nixing of the display at the main Independence Day eve ceremony in Jerusalem. A chain reaction of cancellations followed, from Netanya to Tzur Hadassah, outside Jerusalem, joining locales such as Ramat Hasharon, Herzliya and Ra’anana, as well as 76 kibbutzim.

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