Netanyahu Rebuffs Iran at Memorial Ceremony: We Will Not Allow Tehran to Have Nuclear Weapons

Premier says 'our dear ones who fell are diamonds,' then takes stab at Iran, who announced earlier it is 'diminishing commitments' to nuclear pact ■ Addressing Gaza tensions, PM notes 'campaign not over'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Memorial Day Ceremony at Mount Herzl, Jerusalem, May 8, 2019.
Marc Israel Sellem

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the nation on Wednesday in a speech he made at the Memorial Day ceremony in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl, saying that "our dear ones who fell were diamonds, human diamonds." 

Netanyahu spoke after a two-minute siren wailed and Israel stopped at a standstill to pay its respects to soldiers who died in the line of duty and those who were slain in terorr attacks. 

The premier also spoke about the fact that Iran intends to "diminish commitments" it made in the nuclear deal it struck with world powers in 2015.

>> Read more: This Memorial Day, Netanyahu's biggest achievement is the one he won't talk about | Anshel Pfeffer ■ What is behind the rise in the U.S.-Iran tensionsWhy Israeli-Palestinian memorial drove right-wingers out of their minds ■ How the war between America and Iran will start | Opinion

Tehran announced the move earlier Wednesday, after Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a televised address that his country intends to go back to enriching uranium at high levels within 60 days if world powers do not respect promises they made in the pact. 

"We will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon," Netanyahu said. 

Netanyahu also spoke about recent tensions that flared up between Israel and the Palestinians this week, when some 700 Gaza rockets were hurled toward Israel, killing four Israelis. Israel retaliated by striking hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in the Strip, and the Palestinians reported 25 fatalities. 

"The campaign in Gaza isn't over," he said. "We are calculating our steps in a methodic and consistent commitment to ensure the safety of Israel," the premier continued. 

Netanyahu went on to say that "as much as the Palestinians want to impose their regime of fear inside [Gaza], so do they want to have it outwardly. Thus, lethal terror – when it isn't met with 
unified resistance by the international community – becomes a global epidemic. It's time that the world acted in unison against this barbaric fanatisism. We understand it well. We have been fighting terror for 100 years."

He further noted that "there is a moral abyss between us and those incitement-driven murderers. We want to build and they just want to destroy. We grieve, and they turn murderers into heroes and name streets and squares after them. Their murder system shows their true intention: If only they could, they would annihilate all of us."

Netanyahu also touched on the operation to retrieve the remains of fallen soldier Zachary Baumel, who was considered missing for 37 years and whose body was returned to Israel from Syria several weeks ago. "The State of Israel stood at a standstill several weeks ago, when after 37 years we returned Zachary Baumel home. Thousands came to the moving funeral that was held here on this mountain. They gave his family an enormous hug." 

Also in attendance at the ceremony were President Reuven Rivlin and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, who also delivered speeches.

In the year since last Memorial Day, 56 servicemen have joined the ranks of those who fell while serving in Israel's security forces, according to the numbers released by the Defense Ministry. 

Furthermore, 40 wounded veterans died as a result of disabilities over the past year and were recognized as fallen soldiers.

According to the data released by the Defense Ministry, the total number of Israel's fallen stands at 23,741 men and women, counting from 1860 to date. 

The numbers include soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces, officers of the police, the Shin Bet security service, the Mossad spy agency and the Israel Prison Service, as well as those killed fighting in the pre-state defense forces and units such as the Jewish Brigade of the British Army during World War II.