Netanyahu’s Independence Day message praises troops’ ‘fighting spirit’ in Gaza


(JTA) — In his Independence Day address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the fighting spirit of troops in Gaza.

Netanyahu’s praises came in the Hebrew-language version of a video released by his office at the start of Israel’s 67th Independence Day, which this year fell on Thursday. The English-language version contains no such reference but celebrates the right of Jews living outside Israel to immigrate there, or make aliyah.

“Last summer, during Operation Protective Edge, we saw your fighting spirit, your camaraderie, your bravery,” Netanyahu said in the introduction part of the Hebrew-language video, which Netanyahu began with a message addressed to members of the security forces. “You are the first element of Israel’s security and its independence.”

Israel has faced international criticism for its military operation last summer in Gaza against Hamas, which left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead, and has disputed claims by the Palestinians and others that it committed widespread war crimes.

“When we look at the countries around us, we see how exceptional Israel is — a vibrant democracy with equal rights to all its citizens,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is at the forefront of the world’s technology.”

Unlike the Hebrew address, Netanyahu’s English-language video also celebrates how Israel gives Jews “the right to make aliyah and be part of the modern State of Israel.”

It further differs from the Hebrew-language version in that it says specifically that Arab-Israelis are “equal under the law.”

Last month, Netanyahu urged voters to elect his party, Likud, because Arabs, he said, were showing up in great numbers to vote with help from left-wing groups. The statement spurred many Israeli politicians and opinion-shapers — as well as U.S. officials — to accuse Netanyahu of eroding democratic values, and he later apologized for the offense it caused.

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