P.M. Bennett addresses nation before Rosh Hashanah — Defends IDF, condemns people who “politicize IDF in wake of Shmueli killing on Gaza border

September 6, 2021 by Gil Tanenbaum - TPS
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, has sent his best wishes for a good year to the citizens of Israel. He did so in a formal declaration, as well as in remarks made in the presence of the press at today’s cabinet meeting, the last of the Jewish year 5781.

PM Naftali Bennett,. (Shalom Shalev/TPS)

Bennett stated that he is very proud of his own government, which was only formed three months ago. He said that it is a government of, “much goodwill, a government that cooperates and is coordinated and balanced, that works only for the benefit of the people, and in which ministers do not bear grudges against each other.”

The Prime Minister said that he was proud of the Israeli people because they were able to get to this holiday season while avoiding another national lockdown due to the Coronavirus. Last year the country was shut down all through the holiday period, at a cost of hundreds of millions to the economy.

In remarks to his cabinet today, Bennett stated that 2.5 million Israelis have already received a third dose of the Coronavirus vaccine. He told the cabinet, “this number. 2.5 million did not happen by itself. We blocked the morbidity curves against all odds, which also did not happen by itself. As noted, there were hundreds of large and small actions by this good government.”

“This was not easy, neither was it perfect, but with G-d’s help, we succeeded,” said Bennett. “You can go to work or relax at home, in a hotel or restaurant, or arrange to go out with friends according to the directives. The country is open and this was not a given. It is still too early to celebrate, we have a long campaign ahead of us, but we take each step and deal with it.”

But Prime Minister Bennett did have some words of caution for the Israeli public regarding the Coronavirus. He asked every family to be careful, especially if they hold tended meals with children under age 12 who are not vaccinated together with elderly people.

Regarding the worship in synagogues over the holidays, he reminded the public that every person is obligated by the Green Pass. So only Green Pass Holders, people who have been recently vaccinated or recovered from the virus, should be admitted to synagogues.

The Prime Minister went on to say that he was also proud of the two million pupils who returned to school and preschool a few days ago. Until the first of September actually came about, there was a great deal of concern that Israel would not be able to go ahead with the new school year as planned.

On that Bennett said, “We insisted on it. We created the conditions for it. We will continue to safeguard our education system and cultivate the future generation of the State of Israel.”

On the recent budget agreement, he said, “I am proud of our ability, after years without a budget, to formulate a state budget, set long-term priorities, especially strengthening and building up our security, strengthening the health system and enacting a series of reforms that will lower prices in Israel.”

Hoping that Israel will have its first new state budget in three years, Bennett said, “The country is returning to stability and functioning, and with G-d’s help, we will also pass the budget on its second and third readings, in my view, more clear-cut than on the first reading.”

He commended Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the rest of the cabinet for coming to an agreement on the new budget. “We reached substantive compromises. We did not pass the buck to the second and third readings. We found solutions despite disagreements and very different ideologies,” he said.

The Knesset approved the new state budget in its first reading last Thursday.

There were a number of other things that the Prime Minister was proud of as well. These included the new deal to grant Israel’s ultra-orthodox citizens a chance to join the country’s labour force by lowering the minimum age at which they will be exempted from military service.

He also mentioned new reforms in kashrut certification, new grants for Holocaust survivors and the handicapped, the strengthening the health system and the hospitals after years of “starvation and neglect,” and that his government is building up the strength of the IDF

And he talked about strengthening Israel’s ties to the U.S.

Bennett commented that he was proud of the Israeli public saying, “I am proud of you, citizens, for placing confidence in this government and giving it your backing. I have also seen you on the issue of vaccines, going to get vaccinated because you know that the third dose will give you health and protection, and will allow us to open the economy. I very much appreciate this.”

The Prime Minister also made reference to the recent death of Israeli Border Police officer Barel Achiya Hadarya Shmueli who died at the age of 21, nine days after a Hamas terrorist shot him during riots on the border of the Gaza Strip. Shmueli, a member of an elite undercover unit, was facing hundreds of rioters on August 21 when he was shot.

There was a backlash after Shmueli’s death from both IDF soldiers as well as the Israeli public who feel that soldier’s hands are tied by the IDF rules of engagement when they are in life-threatening situations. These rules, they say, hamper a soldier’s ability to use deadly force in self-defence.

“At the moment there are soldiers in the field who are guarding us with their bodies, and their commanders are with them, always in the lead, always on the first line – this is the way of the IDF,” said Bennett. “From here, I would like to send a clear message to those in uniform and to all Israeli citizens: I absolutely back the commanders and soldiers of the IDF. The IDF safeguards us throughout the year; our job is to safeguard the IDF.”

Bennet is himself an IDF combat veteran who fought in the 2006 second Lebanon War. “As someone who is familiar with battlefields and has commanded soldiers, and as someone who has lost the best of his comrades, I know that when decisions are made in operational events, there are also mistakes, sometimes very painful and tragic ones,” he said. “This is how it is when one fights the enemy; the soldiers and commanders must be supported, especially when there are mistakes.”

Bennett dismissed the current campaign criticizing IDF policies as nothing more than a group of people who are, “trying to use the IDF as a tool for advancing cynical political goals. This undercuts our stamina and it is unworthy; stop it. Many battles are yet before us, to my regret, and the IDF must be safeguarded so that it may safeguard all of us.”

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