Netanyahu at Beit Yad Labanim
Netanyahu at Beit Yad LabanimIsrael news photo: Flash 90

"Since our inception as a people, we had to fight for our freedom and our existence," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at a Sunday afternoon ceremony at Beit Yad Labanim in Jerusalem, marking the start of Memorial Day for the IDF's Fallen Soldiers.

"Today, too, there are those who threaten to annihilate us -- they haven't succeeded in the past, they won't ever succeed", he said.

Netanyahu seemed to be alluding to Iran, which Israel believes is working toward achieving military nuclear capabilities and has issued countless threats to annihilate the Jewish state.

"If we have no choice, we will grasp our swords and go to battle," Netanyahu said, in one of the more sternly worded warnings he has issued to date.

"We are not belligerent, we are not bloodthirsty. Our hand is extended in peace to all nations and states, far and near, but over the centuries we learned that only a strong defense force will ensure that we are not harmed."

President Shimon Peres, speaking at a memorial service at the Kotel, said that "Israel's existence is no longer in question. The IDF is ready for any scenario, against any enemy."

Speaking after Peres, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said that "our sword is sharper than ever. Its lethal blade reaches every range. Whoever needs to know, knows -- there is no place or target that the IDF's long arm can't reach."

"If it seems that the enemy is no longer at our gate -- don't let that quiet mislead you," he said, because "a storm of developing threats and dangers is raging below the surface."