(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A group of coalition and opposition MKs are drafting legislation that would take the traditional Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony away from Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev and give full authority over the annual event to the Knesset.
The bill is seen as revenge for what some considered Regev’s hostile takeover of the event. The Knesset speaker traditionally gives the main address at the ceremony, which is usually not attended by the prime minister or the president.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on speaking at last Wednesday night’s ceremony
, at the urging of Regev, who heads the Ministerial Committee on Symbols and Ceremonies. Although Netanyahu had agreed to speak for only five minutes in a compromise with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, he instead went on for 14.
The initiators of the bill, who have asked to remain nameless for now, have informed Edelstein about the legislation. He gave them the impression that not only would he not oppose the bill but that he might even publicly support it. Sources in the Knesset confirmed information about the bill and Edelstein’s view on it, which were first reported by Channel 1.
Edelstein blasted Netanyahu last week for violating the agreement, saying there would be consequences for the prime minister losing his credibility. Edelstein said repeatedly during the months-long dispute that the ceremony belongs solely to the Knesset.
In the last Likud primary, Gilad Erdan narrowly edged out Edelstein for the number two slot on the Likud list behind Netanyahu. Regev hopes to get that slot in the next primary and be appointed a senior minister in the next cabinet.
Sources close to Regev called the bill “nonsense” and said she would ensure that it would not pass.
A Channel 2 poll taken by pollster Mano Geva found that due to the controversy over the torch-lighting ceremony, Netanyahu’s Likud had gone down in the polls for the first time in months.
After the Likud had risen to 30 seats in the last polls taken by Geva, it was predicted to fall to 28 seats in the new poll, eight ahead of Yesh Atid that would win 20.
Asked if the torch lighting ceremony was political or statesmanlike, 46% said political and 36% said it was statesmanlike and not political.