Amidst the most severe diplomatic crisis with the United States in memory, Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Thursday that he is “grateful to the American people” for the country’s ongoing military aid to Israel and insisted that relations between Washington and Jerusalem continue rest on firm ground.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony for the 173rd Israel Air Force pilot’s course, Netanyahu tried to reassure Israelis that a strong military represents security in a turbulent and changing region and world.
“Try to imagine the events that occurred over the last six years throughout the Arab world without the State of Israel,” said the prime minister. “Upheaval and abrasion would have washed over this strip of land, along with our neighbors, and that includes the Palestinians. So Israel is not a cause of instability in the region. To the contrary: Israel is the anchor of stability in the region, of security of the region, it is the force that prevents the further collapse and this is understood by many, many people around the world and of course, by the United States.” said Netanyahu during the ceremony held at Hatzerim Airbase in the Negev.
The ceremony for the new pilots occurred an approximate two weeks after the Air Force (IAF) welcomed the newest addition to Israel’s air force fleet, the F-35 fighter jet, known in Hebrew as the “Adir,” as part of the US military aid deal signed in September. Netanyahu, who has lashed out strongly at US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry for what they said was a “betrayal” of Israel by refusing to veto a lopsided anti-Israel resolution by the UN Security Council last Friday, said the diplomatic clash has not undermined relations between the countries.
“Even when there is strong disagreement between us, it reflects the depth of the support of the American people. I look forward to working with the new administration to further strengthen the security of the two countries. A strong Israel is an asset to the United States and the guarantee of stability in the Middle East,” Netanyahu added.
The ceremony was also attended by IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, family and friends of the graduates. Next week , the graduates will be placed in squadrons in the Air Force and will begin operational training. Amongst the graduates was the fourth female fighter pilot in the history of the IAF.
“You are joining the ranks for command during a period ripe with challenges and sound changes; over the past year we have faced a wave of terror in Judea and Samaria which was dealt with, but we need to remember that the threat of terrorism is an ongoing battle that we will continue to fight for years to come,” stated Eizenkot.
“For every upcoming scenario, the Air Force will fulfill an important role in the defense of the state and victory over the enemy,” he claimed.