PM Benjamin Netanyahu's Remarks at the State Memorial Ceremony for Theodore Herzl 7.7.1508 July, 2015
Yesterday on this mountain, we commemorated the IDF soldiers, the defenders of the state, who fell a year ago in Operation Protective Edge. Today we honor Herzl – the state's prophet – who strengthened our belief in our power, and in the rightness of our way.
Herzl believed in the strength of the Jews more than the Jews believed in their own strength. But through the power of this belief, he encouraged our people to live up to his expectations. He channeled the national feeling into a practical action plan, the goal of which was to achieve sovereignty for our people. He imbued the concept of sovereignty with substantive content, one dependent on a military defensive force, which allows it to gain momentum and develop constantly.
Herzl was the first to speak of a Jewish army. Many, especially among the Jews, thought him completely insane when he said it, but he was right, both in the matter of sovereignty and in what ensures its existence.
Since Herzl's time, world orders have changed: world powers have risen and fallen, revolutions took place, great wars broke out – but his doctrine remains vital. Zionism has won. The state was established and became strong. We fortified our security, ingathered immigrants from the ends of the world, revived the land and created a prosperous economy. We made great achievements in science, agriculture, medicine, industry and culture. Herzl did not daydream. Herzl dreamed with his eyes wide open.
He looked forward and his feet were firmly rooted in reality. He had a marvelous mixture of foresight, pure logic and passion to realize his belief in the practical world. He understood that time was pressing. He saw that our people, whom he called "our miserable people", were being persecuted and were suffering due to rising anti-Semitism. The ground began to burn under his feet. This process culminated in the Holocaust with the extinction of our brothers and sisters on European soil. Herzl did not describe this catastrophe in detail, but rather in general terms. He warned of it dozens of times in his writings 40 years before the Holocaust began.
With his sharp senses he recognized the dangers even when his contemporaries ridiculed and ignored them, but there were others. They urged him, "Be our captain, navigate our ship in the stormy waters". He, aware of the magnitude of the mission, worked towards the target on two channels. As the father of political Zionism he maintained diplomatic contacts with world leaders with the goal of founding a national home and a Jewish state.
He approached the German Kaiser, the Turkish Sultan, the Pope and many others. This is incredible in and of itself. A 36-year-old Jewish journalist could reach all the influential world leaders of the late 19th century.
This is a wonder that should be appreciated. This illustrates the power of his personality, his vision, and his capability to act. Herzl stood before these leaders with pride, stood tall, as the representative of an ancient nation wishing to revive its national life in its homeland. In the second sphere, he sought to forge our people's strength inwards. Herzl believed that only the people could save itself, that we must take our fate into our hands, live as a country and establish the administrative systems of a developed and unified nation.
He emphasized, "I believe that Jews will always have enemies, as does any other nation. Still, when they will settle in their land, they will no longer scatter to the ends of the Earth". Meaning, we will be able to defend ourselves by ourselves, with our military power.
Moreover, he described our future country as a foothold of civilization standing against barbarity. My friends, no message is more relevant than this. The fire in the Middle East is threatening to rage out of control. On the one side is the radical Shiite camp led by Iran, and on the other side is the Sunni warhead in the form of ISIS, conducting ruthless terrorism with horrifying fanaticism and waging all-encompassing wars between themselves. However, at the same time, they are united in their hatred of the West and their desire to trample the achievements of freedom and progress.
Iran, the leading patron of terrorism in the world, blackmails the world powers for further concessions. Iran is the biggest threat to world peace. The concessions agreement Iran is about to receive from the world powers paves its way to acquiring nuclear weapons and for the rapid proliferation of those weapons with the missiles it continues to develop, and of course will allow it continue to spread terrorism, through its network that covers more than 30 countries to date.
How is possible to trust a country that violates the decisions of the international community time and again? How is Iran to be given hundreds of billions of dollars without imposing conditions that this money will not fuel the wheels of the terrorism machine and its proliferation? Iran's aggression is much more dangerous than that of ISIS, which is dangerous enough by itself. And this aggression will reach every corner of the world because Iran's ultimate goal is to take over the world.
Today one of the greatest movie directors in Iran, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, was quoted – he is a very courageous man, an internationally renowned artist – he does not hesitate to criticize the regime and the tyrants in his country. This is a man who was tortured by the regime and is often threatened by it, He says, "Khamenei is worse than Hitler. If he could, he would have destroyed the world".
This is what he says. About Rouhani, the smiling face of the Ayatollah regime, he says, "Rouhani is powerless; he is only the spokesperson of the Supreme Leader". These words reinforce what we have known for a long time, and that is why Iran must be stopped before it is too late.
Israel does not stand still. We prepare for any scenario, determined to protect ourselves from the danger, and at the same time we continue to build and develop the country. Herzl believed the scientific and technological revolution is on our side. He describes a country nurtured by our ancestor's heritage, while at the same time one characterized by its innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. He believed in this immensely. His thoughts about the advantages of a free economy should be read because he was just as excited about this as he was about Zionism.
He was also excited about the invention of electricity – and if he were alive today he probably would have been amazed by the wonders of technology produced by Israel, by our cyber industry and by our natural resources, such as the gas. He was a prophet, but also a practical leader, and this combination is what was necessary for our people.
Who knows what would have happened to our people had he not died at the age of 44, prior to World War I, which he envisioned clearly, and before the opportunity to establish the Jewish state, which he talked about at the end of that war. Who knows if we would have been able to save many of the six million. But there is no doubt that what he initiated and set in motion created the miracle of a new life for us, a miracle unmatched in the history of nations.
In the history of nations there were great leaders who led their people to independence and renewal, but not when facing challenges our nation, scattered among the other nations, had to face. And when leaders from around the world arrive at my office, to the ground floor of the Prime Minister's Office, I welcome them beside a large and impressive statue of Herzl, and after welcoming them, I show them that statue, and if it is an American visitor I say, "This is Herzl, this is our George Washington", and if it is an Italian visitor I say, "This is our Mazzini and our Garibaldi", and so on and so forth, and later on I tell them: Herzl means something else to us; he is our modern Moses. He led us to the Promised Land, and even if he did not live to see its independence, we did.
One hundred and eleven years after the demise of the great savior of our people in modern times, we will continue to walk in his footsteps, continue to follow his example. May his memory be blessed.