Prime Minister Yair Lapid spoke on Tuesday night at a Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) gala in New York.
In his remarks, Lapid stressed that “Israel is stronger than all of our enemies” and “will not hesitate to use force to protect our people.”
“78 years ago, on March 19th 1944, in the early hours of the morning, a German soldier knocked on the door of the house where my father lived in Novi Sad, Serbia. He was wearing a gray uniform with a small SS emblem on his collar. In his hand he held a rifle with a bayonet,” Lapid began his speech.
“‘I am looking for Dr. Bela Lampel', he said. ‘That’s me,’ my grandfather said. ‘Dr. Lampel’, said the German soldier, ‘Get dressed and come with me.’”
“His mother, my great-grandmother, Hermine, approached the German soldier. Slowly, she got down on her knees and hugged his shiny boots. ‘Bitte’, she said in German, ‘You also have a mother at home.’”
“The SS officer did not look at her. ‘Get dressed,’ he ordered my grandfather again. My grandfather got dressed and picked up a small bag which was waiting by the door. In those days, in occupied Europe, every Jew kept a small, tightly-packed bag by the door.”
“He went to my father, a thirteen year old boy who was lying in the big bed watching from under the covers. ‘My son,’ he said, ‘I’ll either see you again, or I won’t.’”
“And he didn’t. My father never saw his father again. My grandfather died in the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, less than a month before the camp was liberated.”
“When I was a thirteen year old boy I asked my father why they did not run away. He said, ‘Because we had nowhere to run to.’"
“I once flew over Australia. A five hour flight from Sydney to Perth. I did not see a single house on the way. On the American mid-west you can drive for two days through the vast wilderness, without seeing a single person.”
“But in all this big, wide world, my father, a thirteen-year-old Jewish boy, had nowhere to go. There wasn’t a Jewish air force to bomb the train lines leading to the concentration camps. There wasn’t a Jewish navy to take my father to the shores of safety. There wasn’t a Jewish state in which a free Jewish people could protect themselves, by themselves.”
“Well, there is now,” continued Lapid. “Israel is a country that chooses life. In the book of Deuteronomy, it is written: ‘I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live.’”
“That choice is the reason that in the seventy five years since Israel was established, we have become a strong, optimistic, incredible country. From the Middle Eastern desert we created a high-tech superpower, a flourishing culture, cutting-edge science and innovation,” the Prime Minister said.
“Israel is also the only full democracy in the Middle East. A country which proudly protects human rights, minorities, the LGBT community, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”
Lapid continued, “The State of Israel is a country that faces many complex threats: Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah's precision guided missiles from Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, terrorists in Jenin, the terror axis trying to establish itself in Syria.”
“Israel is stronger than all of our enemies. We will not hesitate to use force to protect our people,” he stressed.
“Our enemies should know that at any given moment we are stronger, more innovative and far tougher than them. And our enemies should know one more thing: That we stand up to them together. All the Jewish people. In Israel and across the world,” he added.
“If you want to know what we mean when we talk about Israeli deterrence, we’re talking about the brave men and women of the IDF that you support every day.”
“Israel’s deterrence is built on the strength of young people who are willing to push themselves to the limit, and beyond.”
“About a month ago, the IDF launched operation ‘Breaking Dawn’ in the Gaza Strip. It was a short operation with a clear goal: To deal a fatal blow to those who try to harm our children,” said Lapid.
“Alongside the Israeli Air Force, the ‘Iron Dome’ defense system operated and protected against hundreds of rockets aimed at civilian homes.”
“While we strike military targets and terrorist organizations, they attack kindergartens and hospitals. IDF soldiers are deployed from north to south, in the air, on land and at sea.”
“I met some of them over the last few months when I gave them their ranks at the Officers’ Training School and Naval Officers’ graduation ceremonies. I met young people who chose a difficult path, to ensure the security of the country.”
“They know as every Israeli knows, you stand with them.”
“The fact that I am standing here today, as Prime Minister of the State of Israel, a free country, with a strong army, with friends like you… did not happen on its own,” said Lapid.
“We learned the lesson. At every moment, Israel must be strong, free, and secure, with a powerful army that can defend its citizens.”
“The United States has stood by our side from the very beginning. From its vote in the United Nations 75 years ago, to Congress’s vote on assistance for the Iron Dome a couple of months ago. At the Security Council, in our peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, in the wars where Israel received diplomatic and military support from the United States.”
“It stood by our side when President Trump signed the Abraham Accords, and when President Biden signed the Jerusalem Declaration. This bipartisan friendship is one of the cornerstones of Israel‘s security. It is touching. And most importantly, it cannot be taken for granted.”
“And you my friends, are at the heart of this friendship, of the unparalleled alliance between the United States and Israel.”
Lapid concluded by saying, I have the honor of coming here tonight and thanking you, for supporting our soldiers, for your commitment to the State of Israel. On behalf of the State of Israel, and on behalf of the soldiers of the IDF, I salute you, my friends. Your support and love stretches across continents and oceans, and reaches the hearts of every soldier; and of every home in the State of Israel. Thank you.”