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Netanyahu on Memorial Day: Peace will be reached if Israel is strong

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(HAAREZT.COM)  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said that Israel has learned peace can be achieved only if Israel remains strong and prepared to defend itself as its fallen soldiers have done in the past.

Netanyahu spoke at Ammunition Hill to commemorate Memorial Day in Israel, which will be marked with nationwide sirens at 8 P.M. followed by a state ceremony.

As the sirens sound Sunday night at 8 P.M., marking the beginning of Memorial Day for Israel’s fallen soldiers and victims of terror, the number of the fallen soldiers stands at 22,682. Since last year’s Memorial Day, 111 soldiers have been killed.

“Over the years, we have learned that the olive branch of peace will be achieved only if we remain strong, only if we will be prepared to defend our blood in the same way our fallen soldiers did at this site,” said Netanyahu.

“They attacked from this site and other hills, not out of lust for war, but out of the belief in the righteousness of the goal of defending the Jewish people’s one and only country,” he added.

Netanyahu also spoke about the importance of Jerusalem, saying, “Twice we have paid the heavy price to release the siege on Jerusalem – the first time during the War of Independence and the second time when the city was bombarded during the Six-Day War. Jerusalem, which was then a withered divided city returned to being a city full of life.”

Netanyahu said that since those wars, not a day has passed during which Israel did not extend its hand in peace to surrounding neighbors. “And our hand is still outstretched,” he said.

Netanyahu also said that Israel’s Memorial Day and Independence Day are inextricably linked. “We know that the first part is not possible without the second part. I wish it were different, but I know this day is different because all of Israel brings into its heart the parents, brothers, wives and children of bereaved Israeli families.”

Earlier Sunday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on a two-state solution is a necessary condition for maintaining a Jewish majority in Israel.

Speaking at Tel Aviv University to mark Memorial Day, Barak also said that the process toward achieving peace must include help from the United States.

“The challenge of our generation is to turn Israel, in the coming decades, into an exemplary society worthy of the dreams and sacrifices of our fallen ones – and we will be tested on this,” said Barak. “Even after 62 years of independence, the state of Israel is required to fight, to defend its security, and to bolster its strength.”

Barak added that Israel must defend itself without compromise, but must adhere to the road map for peace as the basis for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

“Such an agreement is critical to national security, and only it will ensure a solid Jewish majority for generations, with clear borders and an end to the conflict and claims. For this, we need cooperation with local and international parties, and, above all, close cooperation with the United States.

Barak announces plan for national memorial

Barak on Sunday announced that the government plans to build a national memorial hall for the nation’s 22,682 fallen soldiers and victims of terror attacks.

The hall will be erected at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, and will serve to immortalize all of Israel’s fallen in one place. The new hall will list the names of every fallen soldier alongside a place for a candle to be lit on the anniversary of each soldier’s death.

“As defense minister, I see a deep moral obligation to the bereaved families,” said Barak. “Erecting the memorial hall is another step toward immortalizing the fallen’s legacy and memory.”

Barak added that “on the eve of Memorial Day, we will bow our heads, salute the fallen, and embrace the bereaved families.”

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