Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed on Tuesday that achieving peace was important, but that defending Israel from its enemies is equally as important.
Netanyahu, who spoke at President Shimon Peres’s lavish 90th birthday celebration, said that this lesson is something that he had learned from the president himself.
“Nobody will make peace with a weak Israel,” said Netanyahu, who gave most of his speech in Hebrew and then summarized it in a few English sentences for the benefit of the non-Hebrew speakers in attendance.
“Shimon Peres has devoted his life to build Israel and to build peace,” he added. “A strong Israel creates the possibility for peace. We extend our hand in peace to our neighbors – all of them – but we are always ready to defend ourselves.”
Netanyahu emphasized, “This is what I’ve learned from Shimon Peres. Look to the future, remember the past, be prepared for peace and be prepared to defend yourself.”
Heads of state, public figures, and celebrities gathered on Tuesday evening in Jerusalem to mark Peres’s birthday.
In addition to Netanyahu, attendees at the lavish celebration included former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former British prime minister Tony Blair.
In his speech which concluded the celebration Peres said, “We came to the Promised Land and now we must make it a land of promise.” He called for peace, saying, “The yesterday between us and the Palestinians is full of sadness. I believe that the Israel of tomorrow and the Palestine of tomorrow can offer our children a ray of hope.”