Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave an emotionally charged speech in the Knesset on Tuesday, during a special meeting marking the 37th anniversary of the Entebbe raid – in which his brother Yonatan, who led the operation, was killed.
Netanyahu warned that “the threats we faced 37 years ago continue, and today I say there is no place the long arm of the State of Israel cannot reach and will not reach in order to defend the country.”
At the time of the operation, Netanyahu said, he was studying in the US, and the moment he heard IDF soldiers had landed in Entebbe, he knew his brother had to be there, and called his parents.
“This day changed my life and the lives of my parents and my brother [Ido]. My parents have died since then, but I will never forget their grief over the fall of their firstborn son,” the prime minister said.
Netanyahu also recounted attending a ceremony in Uganda honoring his brother and the others who fell in the Entebbe operation, saying he does not take it for granted that a foreign country would honor IDF soldiers.
Opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich said Netanyahu must use Israel’s “long arm” to bring peace.
“Like it or not, you, Netanyahu, are our leader. Not every leader faces the same challenges,” she stated. “Just as we need courage to fight terror, courage and wisdom are needed to maintain a Jewish and democratic state.”
Yacimovich called on Netanyahu to show the level of courage displayed in the Entebbe raid to ensure that Israel does not become a binational state and to fulfill the Zionist vision.
The Labor leader repeated her promise to offer support to the prime minister if he begins peace talks, quoting former prime minister Menachem Begin, who was opposition leader during the Entebbe raid, as having offered support to thenprime minister and rival Yitzhak Rabin.
MK Omer Bar-Lev (Labor), who was a commander in the raid, initiated the special Knesset meeting and asked Netanyahu to initiate a “social and economic Entebbe operation.”
“Today, when social gaps are widening, when we are at a dead end in peace negotiations, when the Iranians threaten us, we must renew the spirit of Entebe, the spirit of Zionism,” Bar-Lev said.
“We seem to have lost our daring, which allowed Zionism reach where it has over the years.”
Bar-Lev added that he would expect a country with so many successes to be able to make diplomatic progress, and that there should be “no excuses, just action.”
“We are strong! We need brave leadership that is determined and takes initiative, and will lead us to our goal: a Jewish and democratic state,” said the MK. “[Netanyahu] has the historic privilege of being that leader.”
Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz, who was Yoni Netanyahu’s deputy in the Entebbe raid, said the operation helped Israel stand tall.
“We need to have a reason to stand tall today, in every issue with which we deal. The tests of leadership and action stand today, too,” said Mofaz. He recalled Yoni Netanyahu as “strong as a rock” and having a decisive say in the decision to start the operation.
Several other lawmakers spoke about the Entebbe raid, including MKs Ya’acov Margi (Shas); Shimon Solomon (Yesh Atid); Yoni Chetboun (Bayit Yehudi), who was named after Yoni Netanyahu.
MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud Beytenu) said the country cannot give in to terror and called into question the wisdom of releasing terrorists from prison in exchange for captives.