Netanyahu uses Ben-Gurion memorial to hint at Iran strike

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speaks Sunday at the memorial to David Ben-Gurion at Sde Boker. (Flash 90)SDE BOKER (JWN and agencies)—Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took advantage of his address at the 38th annual memorial to Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to make pointed reference to the similarity between Ben-Gurion’s fateful decision to declare statehood and a decision his successor faces today.

Without mentioning Iran by name, nor its growing nuclear threat, Netanyahu told the crowd of dignitaries at the grave of Ben-Gurion and his wife, Paula, that “great statesmen as well as friends of the Jews and of Zionism” warned Ben-Gurion that declaring a Jewish state in 1948 would bring an invasion of Arab armies and a “grave and difficult battle.”

In a clear reference to recent warnings by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan that a preemptive attack on Iran would be disastrous, Netanyahu stated that Ben-Gurion “understood full well the decision carried a heavy price, but he believed not making that decision had a heavier price. We are all here today because Ben-Gurion made the right decision at the right moment.”

Netanyahu has taken Iran’s threats to “wipe Israel off the map” seriously, and considers the Islamic Republic an existential threat. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Saturday that although the entire international community agrees that diplomacy and the use of sanctions must be exhausted with the Iranians, “no option should be taken off the table. Israel is responsible for its security, its future and its existence.”

In a clear allusion to Israel’s decision-making process over the current threat, Netanyahu noted that Ben-Gurion had deliberated long and hard before he decided to declare a state in 1948.

“Today we are all in agreement it was a considered, correct and responsible decision. I want to believe we will always act with responsibility, courage and determination to make the right decisions to ensure our future and security,” Netanyahu said.

“First and foremost we must learn from his commitment to Israel’s future, and his willingness to take the difficult decisions necessary to ensure that future,” Netanyahu said.

“In this burial place of the great leader who declared the state and gave it the name ‘Israel,’ I want to believe that we will always act with discretion, courage and determination to make the right decisions to ensure our future and security,” he said.

Despite making only veiled references to Iran, Netanyahu also chose the occasion to make his first public comment on the outcome of Egypt’s parliamentary election this week, which was won by an Islamist landslide.

“We hope that any government that will be established in Egypt will recognize the importance of peace with Israel, as both a value in itself and as a foundation of security and economic stability for the region,” he said.

Netanyahu also noted that Israel is working overtime to complete the construction of a security fence along the 240-km. border with Egypt.