update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

Ahead of Independence Day, Netanyahu notes US arms embargo in 1948

"We will defeat our enemies; we have no other choice. We will stand together. This can only be done together," said the Israeli premier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets at the Knesset with those who will light torches on Israel's 76th Independence Day, May 12, 2024. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets at the Knesset with those who will light torches on Israel's 76th Independence Day, May 12, 2024. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the Knesset on Sunday with those who will light torches at the main state ceremony on Israel’s 76th Independence Day, noting that just as the Jewish state is facing a U.S. arms embargo during the war against Hamas, so too it did when Arab armies tried to destroy the infant state in 1948.

The Biden administration announced last week the halt of offensive arms shipments to Israel over the IDF’s looming operation in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city and Hamas’s last bastion.

“You represent the heroes of the spirit and of action among our people. … In the War of Independence [in 1948], we were the size of a grain of sand—600,000 people along the coast, with our backs to the sea, without weapons,” Netanyahu told the honorees.

“By the way, there was a U.S. embargo then, [we were] without means, and opposite us were five Arab armies—and we won. How did we win? With heroes of the spirit and of action. With the spirit of our people. That was our secret weapon, we have no other weapon. There are, but without this weapon, there is nothing. This is what you represent today,” added the premier.

Forty-four torchbearers will light 12 torches during Monday night’s ceremony: The torch of the security forces, the torch of the emergency services, the torch of the rescuers, the torch of the immediate response squads, the torch of the public diplomacy front, the torch of the shield, the torch of hope, the torch of medicine and rehabilitation, the torch of victory of the spirit, the torch of giving, the torch of the Diaspora and the 12th torch that will burn without bearers to symbolize the hostages in Gaza who have yet to return home.

“Today, we are much stronger. However, the desire to destroy us has not changed. It existed then, it exists today and it will vex our people for many years. What has changed is our ability to take war to our enemies,” continued Netanyahu on Sunday.

“Eighty years ago [in the Holocaust], we suffered the worst disaster ever because we had no defensive force. We did not have the ability to repel those who wanted to destroy us.

“Today we have it…. The State of Israel, the IDF, the Israeli security services and the spirit of the citizens of Israel, all of them, Jews and non-Jews together, who join together to repel the attack, and that is what we are doing and will continue to do,” Netanyahu said.

“We will defeat our enemies; we have no other choice. We will stand together. This can only be done together. … This is the spirit. We are fighting with everything we have. I have told our American friends: If necessary, we will fight with our fingernails. We have much more than fingernails.

“The main thing we have is what is represented here in this room and which will be presented at the ceremony—the heroism and strength of the spirit. The heritage of generations, the understanding that we are, in effect, fighting for our land, for the future of our existence. I would like to congratulate you; you magnificently represent this spirit. Go and succeed and together we will continue to ensure the eternity of Israel,” the prime minister said.

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