Chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Ganz, I know that you will soon hold the exchange of naval commanders ceremony, so I will allow myself to congratulate the outgoing naval commander, Maj.-Gen. Eli Marom. I thank you for your thorough, dedicated and determined job in defending the coast of Israel.
During your years of commanding the Navy, you made a significant contribution to the State of Israel’s security. You oversaw numerous operations and did so with great success. You led the Navy during a period of complex security issues, in complicated missions that only few know about. We met so many times and you presented missions and operations to me that seemed fantastical, but you made the fantastic a reality, along with the best fighters in the world. I thank you on behalf of the people of Israel for your work to fortify Israel’s security.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate Brig.-Gen. Ram Rotenberg, the next naval commander. Ram, I wish you great success.
In the presence of the commanding officer of the training base, Col. Tzahi Appelman, the training staff and the base commander, I would like to tell the naval commanders past and present, as well as the members of the Navy who are here today, the graduates of the course, their families who are undoubtedly very excited and the entire audience – this is a special night for you, the graduates. You are a new class of naval officers, an elite group of officers, of commanders, of fighters, embarking on a new path. You are going to sea. You experienced long months, even years, in which you worked hard in order to successfully pass each of the most difficult and prestigious courses in the IDF. You can all be very proud of yourselves today.
Your families are celebrating with you, and I say to them on my behalf and on behalf of the citizens of Israel, thank you. Thank you for raising such magnificent sons. Thank you for the Zionist education and the values you taught them. And thank you for the support and encouragement you gave them throughout the difficult journeys they chose to take. You should be proud because your sons’ success is your success.
And to you, the new naval officers, I would like to say that in a few days, each of you will sail away on your new assignments. You will do so very far from the limelight and public view. The poet who composed the Psalms referred to you, naval personnel, when he praised the importance of controlling the seas: “May he dominate from sea to sea, and from river to the ends of the earth. May nobles kneel before him, and may his foes lick the dust.”
You, our new naval officers, from today are charged with Israel’s security in the naval arena. A heavy responsibility will be placed on your young shoulders. The work carried out by the Navy on Israel’s coast, as well as in distant places – and I must point out that the Navy is one of the two longest arms of the IDF, and it is a long and powerful arm – through this work, you are preserving the quiet and our security at sea.
You, the graduates of Course 123 understand better than anyone else the challenges and difficulties you will experience and have certainly already experienced in this important area: the power of the sea, the changing winds, the futility of man but also his greatness, the ability to control the finest technologies even when the seas are high, and even more so, the ability to control yourselves and command others even when your stomach is churning. I salute you. By the way, I speak from personal experience, because I had the opportunity to be on missile boats once or twice on operations ages ago, and I want to tell you – that was enough for me. And by the way, those patches didn’t help at all.
Distinguished guests, we live in very stormy times, and I do not mean storms at sea. I mean the great storm that is brewing through the entire Middle East. Strong winds are blowing through our region, but they include both hope and danger. At this point we cannot foresee the shape the regimes being built on the collapsed regimes will take, or even which regimes have yet to collapse. A thick fog has descended over the Middle East, and in the midst of this fog, Israel is a lighthouse of democracy and progress in the region. Our strength comes from a combination of defensive force that we built for our people, and the eternal values of the people of Israel.
At this time of uncertainty and instability, we must fortify our strength and increase our light. At the end of the day, peace will only be achieved by a strong Israel which believes in the justness of its path. In our region, peace is not made with the weak and obsequious. Peace is made with a strong and proud Israel. And peace is made through direct negotiations between the parties and not by international dictates.
Therefore, from this stage as well, I call on the head of the Palestinian Authority to embark on direct negotiations without preconditions – and to remain until it is completed. I have called for direct negotiations for two and a half years. I suggested holding them in Jerusalem; I suggested Ramallah, even though it would be a tremendous headache for my security people, but they can handle it.
I received dozens of offers from world leaders to come to their capitals or all sorts of other places, and I said: “I agree”. Today, I had a previously unheard of idea, to maybe hold these talks at sea on a ship – and I agree to that too. At sea or on land, the location is unimportant. What is important is that we begin, continue and finish.
Over the past several days, we have also witnessed an increase in tension in our relations with Turkey. It was not our choice then, and it is not our choice now. We respect the Turkish people and their legacy. We certainly want improved relations, but at the same time, on this night in this place – in front of naval personnel, in front of the commanders and brothers in arms, who one year ago physically stopped a breach of the naval blockade on the terrorist regime in Gaza – I want to tell you something true in a clear and loud voice: the justness of our path is the strategic asset of the State of Israel. It is the strongest thing that keeps us alive, that gives us the strength to deal with challenges that no other country or people have to deal with.
You are buoyed by the justness of this path when you are called, and you will be called, to secret missions at sea. You are buoyed by the justness of this path when you defend Israel’s coast. You are buoyed by the justness of this path you’re your job requires you to stop smuggling and flotillas to the Gaza Strip in order to prevent the firing of missiles towards our cities and children.
We, and the people of Israel, sent you on this mission. The people of Israel are proud of you. We are proud of you. We salute you. You are our glory. Dear naval officers, graduates of Course 123, the citizens of Israel are depending on you. At this moving moment, as you embark on your paths – sail away into the distance, dive into the deep, but remember to come back up. Protect our naval borders and most importantly – come home safely.
Congratulations and good luck at sea.