Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman participated in the annual ceremony commemorating the 1997 helicopter disaster in which 73 soldiers lost their lives when two helicopters collided over the northern Israeli kibbutz Shear Yashuv.
"Twenty years have past since then. Today, as defense minister, I meet IDF soldiers daily, many of whom were not born at the time of the helicopter disaster. I see the same light in their eyes, the same determination and love of mankind which was robbed from these boys when they went on the trip from which they did not return.
"I can say with pride that the soldiers of the IDF and its officers continue to deal with all the challenges facing us bravely and responsibly and succeed in their complex mission, due to their remaining true to the values that your sons established. It is because of their willingness to risk their lives and their belief in the justice of their mission. Above all, it is in the merit of maintaining the unity which is so important to us, the unity which manifested itself so movingly in the connection between all of your loved ones," said Liberman to the bereaved families.
"In the Yasour helicopters were soldiers from Bet Zarzir and Jerusalem, from Negba and Beit Jan, from Tiberias and from Karnei Shomron. Bedouin, Jews and Druze, religious and secular, immigrants and native Israelis.
"Your unity taught us another aspect of the unique Israeli unity and the special, awesome and painful way in which it is developing within our society. A true unity of human beings, born in pain but also in determination. We will continue to fulfill their mission, to protect the state they so loved, to strengthen our forces and continue to live for the sake of our living children and for the sake of those who are not with us. This is the way of the State of Israel."
Liberman referred to Israel's military capability and added: "This is the way which will lead us to implement the goals we face: to strengthen our deterrence and to ensure the security of the citizens of Israel. If somebody will force a war upon us, the IDF will know how to achieve a crushing and clearcut victory in any campaign or confrontation.
"This is our way to build a living epitaph for your loved ones, one which they so deserve. This is the way which will lead us to a safe harbor and strengthen our future here as a strong, powerful and free nation in our land."