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B’nai B’rith International marks the 25th anniversary of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina. On March 17, 1992 a suicide bomber drove a truck into the embassy. The explosion killed 29 people and wounded more than 200.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a memorial service honoring the victims and their families. His remarks are below.
“The memory of those terrible days in Argentina is etched on our hearts, the images never fading from our minds. Murderers slaughtered 29 innocent victims, including four of our finest: David Goldman Ben Rephael, Israel’s envoy, was a true professional, a lover of justice, smart, fair, humble and good hearted; Eli Carmon, the wife of Consul Danny Carmon, had a radiant personality, was an exemplary mother and a gifted and hardworking woman; Eli Ben Zeev was an uncompromising security officer who demanded much of himself and was meticulous and reliable; and Zehava Zehavi – who was married to Itzik, the First Secretary – was always willing to help and the first to volunteer.
A heart-wrenching tragedy befell the families and changed their lives forever – the families of our murdered victims, of the local victims, Jews and non-Jews alike, and the family of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We all hold our representatives abroad in great esteem, as they work on two fronts: they tackle diplomatic challenges – today I also say that they encounter diplomatic opportunities – and they are constantly under security threat. They are our soldiers on the front, perhaps soldiers who don a suit and tie and walk the red carpets on occasion, but soldiers nonetheless, and people who face ongoing personal risk.
It is true that in most cases we successfully manage to thwart attacks on them, largely thanks to the excellent Israeli intelligence and defense agencies, but those who wish to harm us still try relentlessly and we thwart their attempts constantly. We still feel the pain caused by the tragedies in Argentina and other places, and we are united in our deep grief.
I am sure that you all remember the moment when the news about the attack on the embassy reached us in Israel. A bridge stretched thousands of kilometers between Jerusalem and Buenos Aires, a bridge which connected us in our joint destiny, our anguish, empathy, solidarity and clarity.
We knew straight away that Iran was behind this heinous attack. Iran set it in motion, Iran planned it and Iran, through its proxy Hezbollah, also carried it out. And if that were not enough, two years later we got further proof that Iran’s aggression knew no bounds, with the attack on the Jewish Community Center, the AMIA building, with an even more dreadful outcome – 85 people killed, hundreds wounded and terrible devastation.
We warned then that the beast of terror growing under the auspices of Iran, this disease spreading throughout the Middle East and the entire world, would not go away. Since the attack in Argentina, Iran, through its proxy Hezbollah, has established a global network of terror in more than 30 countries on five continents. It is the biggest instigator of terror in the world. Its victims are Jews, Israelis, citizens of the West and citizens of the East, domestic insurgents and those who oppose the regime from the outside. Iran is the number one instigator of terror in the world, and we must fight this terror, which is only one of the branches of Iranian aggression.
Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, advancing its ballistic missile program in defiance of Security Council resolutions and sowing instability in the region surrounding us. The regime in Tehran aspires to plant its flag atop the ruins of the free world. It continues to threaten to annihilate Israel. One of our security agencies estimates that over 80% of Israel’s fundamental security problems stem from Iran.
We will not back down. We will continue to build up our strength. Since the attack in Argentina, Israel has become much more powerful. We have become a global leader in intelligence, counter-terrorism and cyber. We have armed ourselves with first-rate weapons systems and flight systems, the best in the world. Israel has become a great force, and this force mobilizes others to challenge the threat posed by Iran. We will continue to decisively confront the aggression of Iran and its proxies.
In two days I will fly to Moscow to meet with President Putin. I will make it clear to him that we are determined to prevent Iran from tightening its hold in Syria, on the ground and in the sea. By the same measure, we will object to the presence of any Shiite militias among us or near us, including the arming of Hezbollah with dangerous weapons. Our red lines are thick and well-defined, and we will not hesitate to act to preserve them.
I urge all countries to fully understand that no one is immune from terror, and we must continue to work together to fight it. Two-and-a-half decades ago, Argentina suffered these two harsh blows, first in the attack which we are commemorating today and then in the second attack on AMIA. However, the danger still looms over us all.
Having spoken with President Macri, I am impressed that he understands the problem well, and I intend to meet with him in the near future to strengthen the relations between our two countries in many areas, including these vital areas of enhancing defense and fighting terror.
Ladies and gentlemen, a few days after the attack on the embassy, someone placed a flag on top of the rubble that was once the building – a flag that is stronger than any wreckage, the blue and white flag of Israel. This symbolic gesture moved me to tears, and it held profound meaning – terrorism will not break us, and we will continue to fight resolutely to eradicate it.
Sadly, our loved ones whose lives were brutally cut short are not among us, but the causes which guided them are impressively becoming realities. The State of Israel has become very strong. It is a developed and prosperous country, possibly one of the most modern of the countries in the world, definitely among the top, and it is advancing in huge strides. Today, our flag flies proudly in many countries, in ever more countries that are seeing the bright light radiating from here. This light is destined to defeat the forces of darkness, the forces of barbarism and terrorism.
We will remember the victims of the attack in Argentina with yearning and respect, and will continue along the path they paved to strengthen Israel and its standing in the world, and to ensure our future.
May their memory be blessed.”