JERUSALEM, April 19 (UPI) -- Israel seeks peace in the Middle East but also is taking measures to protect itself, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday.
Netanyahu, addressing a Memorial Day audience at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery, said, "Our one hand is extended in offering peace to our willing neighbors, while the other wields a sword to protect ourselves from those who seek to destroy us," Haaretz reported.
Israelis observed 2 minutes of silence to remember the 22,684 soldiers and civilians killed in in Ithe country's wars and terror attacks since the beginning of modern Zionism. After a 2-minute siren, Memorial Day ceremonies began in military cemeteries across the nation, Haaretz said.
Other Israeli government officials also spoke at military cemeteries.
"We stand here, in front of this long row of tombstones, which are the tangible witnesses to the price you paid in blood, dear families, for our nation to live in its land," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said at Kiriat Shaul Military Cemetery. "A state is not given to the nation on a silver platter, and freedom is only given to those who are willing to defend it."
During a Memorial Day ceremony Sunday at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Israel has learned that peace can be achieved only if it remains strong and prepared to defend itself.
"Over the years, we have learned that the olive branch of peace will be achieved only if we remain strong, only if we are prepared to defend ourselves in the same way our fallen soldiers did at this site," he said.