Pro-Israel News

Date:
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By REUTERS \05/06/2015 11:13| The Jerusalem Post| 

 

ANKARA - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Tehran would not take part in nuclear talks if threatened with military force, state television said, as Iran and world powers try to meet a June 30 deadline for a final deal.

"Holding nuclear talks (with major powers) under shadow of threat is unacceptable for Iran ... Our nation will not accept it ... Military threats will not help the talks," Khamenei was quoted as saying by Iran's English language Press TV.

"Recently two US officials threatened to take military action against Iran. What does negotiation mean under the shadow of threat," he said. He gave no further details on the threats.

Khamenei repeated his cautious support for the nuclear talks, saying that the country's "red lines" should be respected by the Iranian negotiators.

"Our negotiators should continue the talks with respect to our red lines. They should not accept any imposition, humiliation and threat," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and rejects allegations from Western countries and their allies that it wants the capability to produce atomic weapons. It says all sanctions are illegal.

Iran and the six world powers, which struck an interim agreement on April 2 in Lausanne, Switzerland, wrapped up nearly a week of talks in New York on Tuesday.

The negotiations between Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the European Union will resume in Vienna next week.

Date:
Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Newly improved 30,000-pound bomb that can take out nuclear site has not been provided to IDF


BY MITCH GINSBURG May 4, 2015, 10:25 pm | The Times of Israel| 

 

Secretary of State John Kerry raised the specter of using a 30,000-pound (13,600-kg) bunker-buster bomb  against Iran’s nuclear program in an interview aired this week, during an attempt to reassure Israelis that America had its back against Tehran, even if it means preemptive military action.

 

People in Israel should have some confidence in an “administration that designed and deployed the weapon that has the ability to deal with Iran’s nuclear program,” Kerry told Channel 10, adding that his is “an administration, a government, a country that will stand by Israel way into the future.”

The weapon he was referring to, the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, is a 30,000-pound bomb that was made operational in 2011 and recently redesigned in terms of guidance and penetration. The massive weapon has not been offered to Israel for purchase.

 

The US Department of Defense invested $330 million to develop 20 of the bombs and requested an additional $82 million to enhance their efficacy, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2012.

 

In April the Journal reported that the upgraded bomb was tested in mid-January, when it was dropped from a B-2 bomber that took off from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

The successful test showed a massive bomb that could be guided much like smaller precision weapons and was upgraded with electronic countermeasures that protect it from potential Iranian jamming, which could otherwise be used to steer incoming weaponry off target.

The US officials, who were reportedly not involved in the administration’s negotiations with Iran, told the Wall Street Journal that the bombs, if used, would have a devastating effect never before seen by a non-nuclear weapon.

The bombs are designed to be released in pairs, with the first burrowing through the layers of rock and steel that protect underground nuclear facilities like the one in Fordo, Iran, and the second to follow immediately on its heels and destroy the target.

 

The Journal reported that Pentagon officials have shared details about the bomb with Israeli counterparts, and have “shown them videos of the weapon hitting a target during testing.”

The videos reportedly showed a deep bunker utterly destroyed by a precision-guided bomb.

“The Pentagon,” officials told the Journal, “continues to be focused on being able to provide military options for Iran if needed,” and stressed that “if you say all options are on the table, you have to have something on the table that’s credible.”

Kerry, in the Israeli television interview, seemed to be indicating that the threat of US military action still hovers over the negotiations and acts as a stick to prevent future Iranian violations of any would-be agreement.

 

Official Israel, which was chastised for its preemptive action against Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in 1981, and which witnessed the US’s unwillingness to act in order to thwart North Korea and Syria, remains unconvinced that the emerging deal will thwart Iran’s nuclear drive to nuclear weapons, though Kerry said he could “guarantee” this was the case.

“Now there are those who say that the Lausanne framework will make Israel safer,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Friday. “As the prime minister of Israel, I can tell you categorically this deal will endanger Israel — big time.”

Date:
Monday, May 4, 2015


In Israeli TV interview, US secretary insists emerging deal will ‘protect Israel'; PM: ‘It will endanger Israel and the world’


BY AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF May 3, 2015, 11:41 pm | The Times of Israel| 

 

US Secretary of State John Kerry sought to calm Israeli worries over an emerging nuclear deal with Iran in an interview aired Sunday, dismissing some concerns as brought on by “hysteria” over the possible agreement.

Speaking to Israel’s Channel 10 television, Kerry said the deal wouldn’t affect American options to counter any possible effort by Iran to build atomic weapons.

 

He also said he did not believe Israel would surprise the United States by attacking Iran without prior consultation, because of the “huge” potential implications.

“I say to every Israeli that today we have the ability to stop [the Iranians] if they decided to move quickly to a bomb. And I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing, so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb,” Kerry said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been one of the harshest critics of the US-led framework deal with the Islamic Republic, which offers it sanctions relief in exchange for scaling back its contested nuclear program.

 
 

Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat, citing hostile Iranian rhetoric toward the Jewish state, Iran’s missile capabilities and its support for terrorist groups. In an apparent direct response to Kerry’s comments, Netanyahu said Sunday that the emerging deal “endangers Israel, it endangers the region, it endangers the world, the entire world in my opinion. So I think it’s very important to insist on a better deal.”

Kerry was adamant, nonetheless, that the criticism is misplaced, and that the deal emphatically benefits Israel. “We will not sign a deal that does not close off Iran’s pathways to a bomb and that doesn’t give us the confidence — to all of our experts, in fact to global experts — that we will be able to know what Iran is doing and prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon,” Kerry told Channel 10.

The emerging deal “will in fact protect Israel,” he said, and he vowed that the US “will never disappoint Israel.”

Kerry made clear that the US maintained all its options, including the military option, to thwart Iran.

He did not directly rule out the possibility of Israeli military action, but he said he did not believe Israel would attack independently of the US. Asked whether he thought he might “wake up one morning” to find that Israel had launched an offensive in Iran, Kerry said: “Obviously, for the most part that’s hypothetical, until we know what the circumstances are where that choice might or might not be made.”

 

He went on: “I do not believe frankly that Israel… that we’d wake up one morning and find that. I believe our relationship with Israel is such that the prime minister would talk to us at considerable length, because we would be deeply involved in what would happen as an aftermath, and there are huge implications to that.”

Netanyahu believes the potential deal leaves intact too much of Iran’s contested nuclear program, including research facilities and advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium, a key ingredient in building an atomic bomb.

“We will have inspectors in there every single day; that is not a 10-year deal, that is forever,” Kerry countered. “There is a lot of hysteria about this deal. People really need to look at the facts, and they need to look at the science of what is behind those facts.”

Kerry was robust and insistent in highlighting the Obama administration’s support for Israel. “Every week we step up to defend Israel in one forum or another in the world,” he said, citing the UN, the ICC and other institutions. “We constantly are voting, working, pushing in order to push back against unfair, biased, bigoted, degrading, inappropriate assaults on Israel’s sovereignty, integrity, and we stand up for it,” he said.

 

“In fact,” he went on, “we’re even being kicked out of entities at the UN now because we stand up [for Israel]. And we have a law that says if the Palestinians do something, then we would not pay our dues. Well guess what? Because of that we’re losing our vote in UNESCO.” He said the US had asked Netanyahu “to give us a waiver so that we can at least be able to defend Israel [at UNESCO].”

Kerry noted without elaboration that the administration had “designed and deployed a weapon that has the ability to deal with Iran’s nuclear program.” That, he said, was just one mark of “an administration and a government and a country that will stand by Israel way into the future.”

“No administration in American history has literally done as much,’ he said, “to try to help Israel in so many ways.”

President Barack Obama “wants a strong and normal relationship with the government and the prime minister,” he said.

He denied that Netanyahu’s speech to both houses of Congress in early March had sparked a crisis in ties — “I don’t think there is a crisis,” he said, though he acknowledged a flare-up over the procedure by which that speech was arranged.

 

And he didn’t accept there was poor chemistry between Netanyahu and Obama: “I don’t get into the chemistry,” he said. “I’m not here to be psychologist or psychobabble-ist. My job as secretary of state is to work with our allies and our friends. And Israel is a great ally and a great friend.”

“I am confident that the relationship between the president and the prime minster will be viewed… as one that is operating on all the critical issues,” Kerry said.

Channel 2 reported Sunday that Netanyahu told Kerry to hold off on a visit to Israel earlier this year until after a coalition is formed.

Kerry had wanted to visit in an effort to reignite peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, and possibly to compel Netanyahu to meet previous promises regarding a two-state solution. Netanyahu responded by asking Kerry to arrive only after a new government is formed, according to Channel 2. Kerry himself acknowledged that he had planned to visit “sooner” but would now do so in the coming weeks.

Netanyahu on Sunday maintained his criticism of the Iran deal.

 

“We think there needs to be a different deal, a better deal, and there are those that tell us this won’t endanger Israel,” Netanyahu said Sunday during a visit by US Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

“I must say as prime minister of Israel, who is responsible for Israel’s security — this does endanger Israel.”

Kerry’s interview came after The New York Times reported on Fridaythat the Obama Administration is also “scrambling” to assuage the fears of its Arab allies over the deal, and is considering a range of options to placate them, some of which could come at Israel’s expense.

 

According to The New York Times report, options under consideration include: a defense pact under which the US would commit “to the defense of Arab allies if they come under attack from outside forces”; joint training missions for American and Arab military forces; designating Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as “major non-NATO allies,” a step that would loosen restrictions on weapons sales and offer “a number of military advantages that are available only to NATO allies”; and approving the sale of its advanced F-35 stealth fighter to the UAE three years after it is delivered to Israel.

The sale of F-35s could undermine Israel’s hitherto sacrosanct military edge, the paper noted.

President Obama is reportedly refusing to meet Netanyahu until after the June 30 deadline for the nuclear talks.

Date:
Friday, May 1, 2015

by TheTower.org Staff 

 

According to a Quinnipiac poll released Monday, sixty-five percent of Americans believe that any agreement with Iran should be subject to congressional approval—increasing the public pressure on the White House to ensure Congress’ role in any final agreement reached. The current bipartisan legislation before the Senate, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, also known as the Corker-Menendez bill, is set for debate in the Senate starting today. The bill provides Congress thirty days to review any final deal reached.

 

There has been ongoing bipartisan support in Congress for passing legislation that would provide a role for the legislature on any nuclear deal reached between the P5+1 global powers and Iran. Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-Md.) declared, “I have always supported Congressional review of any final agreement with Iran.” Following the understanding reached in Lausanne on April 2, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said, “I look forward to a full and frank discussion with the Administration on these issues and the questions the framework leaves open, specifically including the necessary role Congress must play going forward.”

 

President Barack Obama originally threatened to veto any legislation relating to the current negotiations with Iran. However, On April 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committeeunanimously passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 after Corker and Cardin worked together to make changes to the original draft that would garner support from Republicans, Democrats and the White House. Following the committee vote, the White House signaled that the President would sign the legislation agreed to in committee. Following the announcement, Senator Bob Corker (R – Tenn.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “The reason the administration in the last two hours has chosen the path they’re now taking is the number of senators they realized were going to support this legislation.”

 

Date:
Thursday, April 30, 2015

After lawmakers vote against making nuclear accord a treaty, US president warns against interfering legislation

 
BY AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF April 30, 2015, 2:18 am| The Times of Israel| 

 

US President Barack Obama plans to veto any legislation that would depart from a deal between the White House and US lawmakers over Congress’ role in the Iranian nuclear negotiations, an administration official said Wednesday.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest also said Obama also would not support any bill that would interfere with the negotiations between Iran, the US and other world powers over its nuclear program, Reuters reported.

On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Senate turned back an attempt to elevate any nuclear deal with Iran into a treaty, a vote that gave momentum to lawmakers trying to pass a bill giving Congress a chance to review and possibly reject any agreement with Tehran.

The amendment, filed by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, failed 39 to 57.

Supporters want the bill passed free of controversial add-ons they claim could scuttle negotiations with Tehran, draw a presidential veto or leave lawmakers with no say on a national security threat.

 

As written, the legislation would block Obama from waiving congressional sanctions for at least 30 days while lawmakers weigh in on any final deal the US and five other nations can reach with Iran. And it would stipulate that if senators disapprove the deal, Obama would lose authority to waive certain economic penalties — an event that would certainly prompt a presidential veto.

The bill has gained tacit approval from Obama. He says he will sign it as written, but the White House warns that he will reconsider if the measure is substantially changed. Sen. Bob Corker, a lead sponsor of the bill and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the measure in its current form, has 67 backers, enough to override a presidential veto.

Corker and his supporters are trying to bat down more than 50 amendments have been introduced so far — all by Republicans.

 

Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid warned Republican presidential hopefuls in the Senate not to use it as a “platform for their political ambitions.” He said the full Senate should pass the bill with the same bipartisanship that occurred in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which unanimously approved the measure 19-0.

The alternative to the bill is not a better bill, he said, “it is a deal without any meaningful congressional input.”

 

Johnson’s failed amendment would have turned any final nuclear agreement with Tehran into a treaty, requiring ratification by two-thirds of the Senate.

The amendment failed just hours after former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was national security adviser under President George W. Bush, said any Iran nuclear deal is an executive agreement that doesn’t need to be a treaty. “The proposed Iranian nuclear agreement is classically an executive agreement and doesn’t need to be a treaty with advice and consent of the Senate,” she said. “But Congress should be able to opine, given that congressionally mandated sanctions would have to be lifted.”

Date:
Wednesday, April 29, 2015

 

APRIL 27, 2015 2:51 PM | By ELIEZER SHERMAN| The algemeiner| 

 

Americans believe by an overwhelming majority that U.S. President Barack Obama should be a better friend to Israel, a poll of voters by Quinnipiac Universityrevealed on Monday.

When asked, “Do you think the President of the United States should be a stronger supporter of Israel or not,” 67% said yes. Twenty percent replied no, and 13% said they were undecided.

But, only 38% of respondents said they felt Obama actually was a strong supporter of Israel. Forty-eight percent said he was not, while 15% said they did not know.

 

The divide was clear along party lines, as 83% of Republicans said they felt Obama was not a strong supporter of the Jewish state, while 65% of Democrats said they felt he was.

Voters aged 55 and up were also less likely to believe Obama was a strong Israel supporter, with 56% saying no.

The poll also showed that most people disapproved of Obama’s handling of the Israeli-Palestinian “situation.”

Near the start of Obama’s second term, Secretary of State John Kerry launched a nine-month push in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which were ultimately followed by a 50-day war between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip last summer.

 

Only 31% of voters approved of Obama’s handling of the situation, while 55% disapproved. Among nine categories of voters, only Democrats (59%) approved by a majority the way the Obama administration has dealt with the conflict.

And on Iran, the numbers were quite similar, with 52% of voters disapproving of the way Obama has handled negotiations with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

But despite disapproval of Obama’s handling of Iran, 58% said they supported the recent framework agreement that was announced by the negotiators in Switzerland, in which sanctions would be lifted in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program. More than a third of Republican voters even supported a deal in that language.

This perhaps reflects the 77% of voters that supported a negotiated settlement to the Iranian issue over military intervention (13%).

The most recent Gallup poll put Obama’s overall approval rating at 48%.

Date:
Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Lawmakers work out proposed legislation that would require approval for nuclear agreement


BY DEB RIECHMANN April 28, 2015, 3:15 pm | The Times of Israel| 

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate begins debate Tuesday over legislation empowering Congress to review and possibly reject any nuclear pact the Obama administration develops with Iran.

The bill approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has gained the tacit approval of Obama, and proponents are trying to discourage any changes. They recognize that politically driven amendments could undermine Democratic support and sink the carefully crafted measure.

The legislation would block Obama from waiving congressional sanctions for at least 30 days while lawmakers weigh in. And it would stipulate that if senators disapprove the deal, Obama would lose authority to waive certain economic penalties — an event that would certainly prompt a presidential veto.

 

Among proposed additions to the bill are demands that Iran release any US citizens it is holding and refrain from any cooperation with nuclear-armed North Korea. Another insists that any agreement be treated as an international treaty, requiring two-thirds ratification by the Senate.

Another set of amendments would block any sanctions relief for Iran until it meets goals the US set years ago as negotiating stances and has long since abandoned.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met Monday in New York for the first time since April 2, when world powers and Iran sealed a framework agreement. They now have little more than two months to meet their own June 30 deadline for a comprehensive accord.

 

Neither man spoke to reporters as the meeting got underway, but earlier Kerry told a UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation that a deal would make the world a safer place. “I want you to know the hard work is far from over and some key issues remain unresolved,” he said. “But we are, in fact, closer than ever to the good comprehensive deal that we have been seeking. And if we can get there, the entire world will be safer.”

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidates are lining up to oppose any deal with a government the US considers the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and to show their support for Israel.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida wants to require Iran’s leaders to publicly accept Israel’s right to exist, a nearly impossible mandate. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas hopes to put the onus on advocates to win congressional approval of a deal, and not on opponents to gather enough votes for rejection

Date:
Monday, April 27, 2015


After 20 years, Israeli delegation will attend UN conference to encourage negotiations with ‘moderate countries,’ official says


 
BY JUDAH ARI GROSS April 26, 2015, 7:36 pm | The Times of Israel| 
 
Israel will attend, as an observer, a nuclear non-proliferation conference at the United Nations for the first time in 20 years, an Israeli official said according to a Sunday report.

 

After a two-decade absence at summits of this type, Israel hopes that its appearance Monday — even in a limited capacity — will signal to Arab states a desire for dialogue, Reuters reported.

“We think that this is the time for all moderate countries to sit and discuss the problems that everyone is facing in the region,” an Israeli official, who requested anonymity, told the news outlet Sunday.

 

Israel is one of the few remaining non-signatories to the NPT, and holds a large nuclear arsenal, according to foreign media reports. It has chafed at efforts over recent years from Arab states and some European countries to push it into signing the treaty and opening up its nuclear holdings.

Israel began protesting in 1995 after a number of resolutions were directed against it, including an Egyptian resolution that called on Israel to sign the NPT out of “deep concern at the continued existence in the Middle East of unsafeguarded Israeli nuclear facilities.”

But Israel has grown closer to Egypt and other Arab states in the past few years with the rise of mutual enemies — notably, Hamas and Iran.

“I see this, coming as an observer to the conference now, as trying to demonstrate our good faith in terms of having such a conversation,” the official went on. “We need direct negotiations between the regional parties, a regional security conversation, a conversation based on consensus. This (attendance at the NPT conference) is meant not to change our policy. It’s meant to emphasize our policy.”

 

Saudi Arabia has quietly lobbied against Iranian nuclear plans, as have other Sunni Arab countries, concerned about the Shiite country’s ambitions.

Israel, according to the senior official, hopes the summit, which will last from April 27 to May 22, will be an opportunity to find common ground with those countries.

The review of the 1970 treaty takes place every five years.

Egypt, which introduced the 1995 resolution that targeted Israel specifically, is now adopting a gentler tone, possibly due to the two countries’ increased military cooperation in fighting Hamas.

“Our initiative for a Middle East free of nonconventional weapons is a principle,” an Egyptian official told Reuters on condition on anonymity. “It will not change. But nothing is against Israel itself. It’s for everyone — Iran, Israel, everyone.”

Date:
Friday, April 24, 2015

 


Fox News survey finds 51% believe Obama administration ‘too soft’ on Tehran; over 60% say US fight against Islamic extremism going badly


BY TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF April 24, 2015, 5:51 pm 

 

Majority of Americans disapprove of US President Barack Obama’s handling of the Iranian nuclear issue and his administration’s approach to combating terrorism, a new poll has found.

According to a survey released by Fox News on Friday, 57 percent of those polled said they were unhappy with “the job Barack Obama was doing” on Iran, compared to 32% who approved and 11% who did not know. Some 65% said they felt Iran posed a real security threat to the United States.

 

Fifty one percent of respondents said the Obama administration was “too soft” on Iran in negotiations to curb its nuclear program, while 34% believed it was “striking the right balance.”

Similarly, of those polled, 50% said negotiating with Iran was the “wrong thing” to do “because Iran can’t be trusted to honor any agreement so a deal won’t stop them from getting nukes.” Forty percent felt negotiating with Tehran was the right thing to do; 10% did not know or had mixed answers.

On terrorism, 53% said they disapproved of the US was handling the issue, 40% approved and 7% said they did not know.

Over 60% of respondents believed the US fight against Islamic extremists was going “very badly” or somewhat badly” and 81% said the the terror group the Islamic State posed a real threat to US national security.

Among issues respondents said were the most important for Congress to work on was the economy and jobs, at 29%, and terrorism at 14%; Iran did not feature on the list.

The poll was conducted among 1,012 respondents and had a margin of error of 3%.

Of the respondents, 42% said they voted Democrat, 38% Republicans, 17% independent while 3% refused to say or did not know.

Iran and the US-led P5+1 world powers were set to negotiate a final accord by a June 30 deadline, having reached what has been described as a “historic” political framework for a potential deal earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland. The framework has been highly controversial and has exposed differing interpretations about what the deal would entail, including on restrictions on centrifuges, R&D, inspections and the lifting of sanctions. There have also been contradictory statements by the US and Iran on the initial agreement, which is not a signed text.

Under the deal, Iran is expected to curb its enrichment activities while leaving some 6,000 centrifuges — about 1/3rd of its current stock — spinning, and open itself up to a strict international monitoring regime.

Iran has repeatedly stonewalled the United Nations’ nuclear monitoring agency from fully investigating the scope of its nuclear ambitions.

Date:
Thursday, April 23, 2015

BY JUDAH ARI GROSS April 23, 2015, 11:48 am The Times of Israel| 

 

After a night of fireworks and celebrations, Israelis joined Independence Day festivities around the country Thursday, despite the unseasonably cold temperatures.

 

At the President’s Residence, an official ceremony decorating 120 IDF soldiers took place, and Israelis were gazing heavenwards to watch the air force’s traditional acrobatics across the skies.

Many were flocking to Israel’s beaches and parks to hold barbecues and picnics with friends and family, a tradition in Israel, although rain was falling intermittently in most of the country.

The rain fell for the second year in a row on Independence Day. According to the Israel Meteorological Service, snow fell on Mount Hermon and the surrounding area in the Golan Heights Thursday morning for the first time on Yom Ha’atzmaut in 25 years. Clouds covered parts of the country, including Jerusalem, which saw a chilly 54 degrees Fahrenheit. The coast, however, may be spared the rain.

In addition to the fun, informal outdoor gatherings, Yom Ha’atzmaut is also a day of official ceremonies and events.

 

At 11:00 a.m. the International Bible Contest kicked off. The annual competition pits the 16 bible scholars who qualified against one another to see who knows the Good Book best.

This year’s winner of the youth competition is 15-year-old Eyal Matas of Rehovot. Sixty-seven competitors from 33 countries entered the annual contest, which began earlier this week. That number was whittled down to 16 finalists who competed on Independence Day.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin jokes with soldiers as he inspects the ranks during a ceremony for outstanding servicemen as part of Israel’s 67th Independence Day celebrations on April 23, 2015 at the President’s residence in Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster / Flash90)

At the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, 120 IDF soldiers were recognized by President Reuven Rivlin for their distinguished service and will receive a university scholarship from the Friends of the IDF organization. The recipients are generally soldiers who have overcome hardship and adversity. Many of them are new immigrants who moved to Israel without their families.

The annual ceremony, attended by the president, prime minister, defense minister and IDF chief of staff, features performances by famous singers and soldiers from the army’s various bands.

“It is our responsibility — and truly our privilege — to give of ourselves,” Lt. Omri Gannem a Druze commander in the Nahal Infantry Brigade said in his speech on behalf of the recipients.

 

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot applauded the soldiers’ parents. “To the families: the education you have provided gave these distinguished soldiers the tools they needed to make it here,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s remarks at the ceremony retained some of the solemnity of Wednesday’s Memorial Day. Looking at the young soldiers, the prime minister discussed the cost of military actions and his responsibility to minimize it. “When I make a decision with the defense minister and the chief of staff,” Netanyahu said, I must ensure “that the cost will be minimal, because every one of you is dear to us.”

“We do not forget anyone — not Hadar Goldin and not Oron Shaul who was here a year ago as an outstanding soldier,” the prime minister said, talking about two soldiers who died in this summer’s conflict in Gaza, one of which received the president’s award last year.

At approximately 10:30 a.m. Israeli Air Force planes took off from southern Israel, making their way around the country in their annual Independence Day flyover. The planes flew past Beersheba at 10:40 a.m. and continue on, making it to Jerusalem at 11:04 a.m., Tel Aviv at 11:24 a.m. and up to Haifa at 11:53 a.m.

 

In addition to the flyover, the air force’s aerial acrobatics team appeared in the skies over the northern air base of Ramat David at 9:40 a.m. Thursday morning and headed to Tel Aviv at 12:10 a.m., the Air Force Museum outside of Beersheba at 1:35 p.m. and above Jerusalem at 2:00 p.m.

Additional planes were flying past Tel Aviv’s famous beaches throughout the early afternoon.

Military buffs and families with small children flocked to army bases across the country for Independence day, as the IDF opened its gates for demonstrations and to show civilians what their sons and daughters do in their military service.

Additionally, most Israeli museums and cultural attractions, including the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, offered free admission on Thursday, allowing citizens a chance to appreciate the country’s rich history.

Finally, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening the day’s events were set to come to a close with the Israel Prize ceremony. Chaim Topol, Esther Herlitz, Erez Biton and others will receive one of the nation’s top honors for their work.

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