Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the torch light ceremony at Mt. Herzl, April 18, 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Months of fighting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein over the ceremonial lighting of torches at Mount Herzl on Independence Day Eve culminated in mutual recriminations over the holiday.
The Knesset speaker traditionally delivers the main address at the ceremony. But at the urging of Culture Minister Miri Regev, who heads the Ministerial Committee on Symbols and Ceremonies, Netanyahu also spoke at the event.
Despite an agreement that Netanyahu would give a short speech about the Declaration of Independence, the prime minister ended up speaking for some 14 minutes, twice as long as the Knesset speaker. Both men’s speeches were devoted to the greatness of Israel and its people.
Following the event, both sides accused the other of violating agreements and causing problems.
The prime minister’s credibility had been harmed by breaking a written agreement, and Netanyahu and Regev “ruined the celebration,” Edelstein told Channel 10. Mocking Regev, he said she tried to invite to the event not only US President Donald Trump but also former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who died in 2013.
Sources close to Netanyahu responded that Edelstein’s accusations could not extinguish the joy of the holiday. Regev responded by accusing Edelstein of lying, behaving in an unstatesmanlike manner and harming the honor of the prime minister, her and the Likud.
Netanyahu and Edelstein accused each other of demanding that the two men enter the event separately. Regev’s office said Edelstein demanded that the Knesset Guard not receive Netanyahu, which forced IDF soldiers to greet him on short notice.
Another report said Netanyahu had demanded to speak from a different podium than the Knesset speaker.
Edelstein spoke first at the ceremony, focusing on the melting pot of Israeli culture, saying, “Variety is the source of our power, and complexity is our growth engine.”
In a speech rich with metaphors, Netanyahu spoke of the menorah as a symbol of the “revival and rebirth” of the Jewish nation.
“In the year 70, the menorah’s light went out,” he said. “But today, in Israel’s 70th year since independence, the menorah is the symbol of our nation, and its light is stronger than ever... Even today, some seek to extinguish the menorah, to extinguish the light that erupts from Zion. I assure you, it will not happen. It will not happen, because our light will always overcome their darkness.”Chaya Eisenberg and Tamar Ben-Ozer contributed to this report.
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