Lt. Gen. Gantz accepts the award, emphasizing the army’s role in “developing and strengthening the unity of the Israeli society”
Date: 02/01/2012, 12:31 PM Author: Avichai Haim
The 38th annual Ben Gurion Prize, an honor presented to mark the anniversary of the death of Israel’s first prime minister, was awarded to the Israeli Defense Forces. The ceremony was attended by President Shimon Peres, Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, his deputy Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, Head of the Southern GOC Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, and the IDF (Zahal) Spokesman Brig. Gen Yoav (Poli) Mordechai.
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz donated the prize money accompanying the award to Bedouin Reconnaissance Battalion under the Southern GOC.
“The IDF (Zahal) is a fighting army, well armed and well trained, not a boastful army but an army that performs with no option but victory. It is a military that does not look for wars, but knows to attack when the time calls for it,” said President Peres when receiving the prize.
“The IDF (Zahal)’s historical purpose is the protection of the State of Israel and it’s democratic character. The IDF (Zahal) has stood every test it has faced, has fought more wars than any other country in the world – and won,” Peres added.
Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz accepted the award, but said that, “We do not deserve an award for merely fulfilling our duty to our country. If I could, I would bring every soldier and every commander to accept this award. When I go down to the Negev, and see all the army bases scattered in the south, when I see the renewed alliance and dedication to the south, I see Ben Gurion’s vision.”
“We continue to do our part in absorbing this country’s new immigrants, helping them learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli socieity,” added the Chief of Staff. “We realize this charge, as an educational army, to help them find their way and contribute their part for the security of Israel.”
Lt. Gen. Gantz added that the IDF (Zahal) is important because, “its main objective is to ensure the existence and welfare of the people of Israel who have been persecuted for hundreds of years with no lack of enemies who wish to destroy them.”
He noted that, “the regional upheaval has shaken the strategic map around Israel, we are again faced with a myriad of challenges as complex as any Israel has faced. It is especially worrying because the clouding of our surroundings is causing difficulties at home. The internal divisions spill over into a growing debate that becomes rift, which is dangerous to our society and security. It is up to us, as the people’s army, to continue mandatory enlistment for everyone.
Now more than ever, there is no room for distinction between religious and secular, men and women, left and right. Only in this melting pot can we stand against all enemies,” added the Chief of Staff, stressing emphatically that, “any attempt to harm our soldiers deserves severe punishment.”
Lt. Gen. Gantz concluded, “we built our army according the dimensions David Ben Gurion left us, and as the current Chief of Staff, receiving this award is a testimony and commitment to developing the Negev as well as developing and strengthening the unity of the Israeli society.”