During Tuesday`s special plenary session marking a decade since the Second Lebanon War, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that prior to the conflict ”Hezbollah viewed us as a frail country which lacks a strong backbone; a society that is weaker than a spider web and which has grown tired of fighting and defending itself. Then the war came and proved the exact opposite. Israel`s citizens displayed resilience and endurance, while the reserve soldiers were called to the flag and reported to duty on the day the order was given.”
During the debate, which was held in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu said that while there were achievements during the war, ”it forced us to do serious soul-searching” and draw the necessary conclusions.
The PM vowed that Israel would respond ”with a lot of force” to any aggression on the northern border. ”No one will be immune,” he stated. ”Our enemies misjudged us 10 years ago, and I suggest that they do not misjudge us again. Our resilience is anchored in our determination, the courage of our soldiers and the resiliency of our citizens.”
(PM Netanyahu, left, and Speaker Edelstein)
In hindsight, the war was a prelude to the fight against radical Islam, Netanyahu said in his speech. ”Shiite radicalism did not remain alone in the arena, and the Sunni zealots, led by ISIS, are competing with them. Israel is a stronghold of the democratic world, a buffer country between culture and barbarism.”
Terrorists targeting key cities in the western world seek to ”cut lives short on the way to waving the caliphates` flag on the ruins formed by terror,” said the PM. ”There are still those in our world who choose to close their eyes and live in denial. To them I say: The time has come to [wake up].”
(President Rivlin during the special session)
Addressing the Iranian threat, PM Netanyahu said Israel would never accept a situation in which Tehran possesses nuclear weapons, adding ”we are also not ignoring Iran`s attempts to open additional fronts against us.”
”Our red lines are clear. We have acted and will continue to act to prevent the transfer of advanced weaponry from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah. Those who think they will shed our blood without a response are making a grave mistake,” he said.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Zionist Camp) spoke about the protests which were held in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War. ”Many soldiers and civilians, who returned from the battlefields and the shelters, were angry about the failures and demonstrated in order to express their harsh feelings. But today, a decade on, we know that part of that protest was engineered and had clear political motives. The methods of widening the rift within the nation in order to ride the dirty wave towards [ruling the country] were manifested in those days as well.”
Herzog called to strengthen the status of the political-security cabinet and include it in decisions which relate to human lives. ”Cabinet members should not have to learn about what is going on in the battlefield from division commanders in the middle of the war,” he said. ”They need to learn about it in the cabinet, from the prime minister and security establishment officials.”
(Opposition leader Herzog)
”The IDF is the people`s army, not the people`s enemy,” the opposition leader stated. ”When elements within us incite against senior IDF officers, they hurt Israel`s resilience. When they stay silent amid this incitement, they are supporting it. Therefore, all of us, the government of Israel, members of Knesset, public leaders and teachers of Halacha, must act responsibly when it comes to this issue, and I urge you: strengthen the IDF commanders, with whom we have entrusted the fate of our sons and daughters.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein, who opened the debate, said the Second Lebanon War has become synonymous with ”chaos and failure,” and remains a ”deep wound that refuses to heal.”
”It is particularly because of this, we must make sure that we have done everything to be prepared and to be a few steps head of our enemies, so that we will not be caught by surprise; so that a conflict which determines fates – life or death – will never again be conducted with lack of cooperation,” he told the plenum.
The main challenge of Israel`s leadership is to ”rehabilitate this crisis of trust,” the Knesset speaker argued. ”It is crucial that the Israeli public know it can trust [its leadership]. The public wants to see its leadership take the initiative, rather than merely react; a leadership which manages and shapes reality, and not only aligns with it.”
”We will not restore Israel`s deterrence if we are always dragged; we have to take the initiative. We will stabilize our diplomatic standing if we find a way to promote rather than merely wait for others. We will fortify our strength and presence not only by announcing construction [projects] after terror attacks, but also by taking the initiative,” Edelstein stated.