The Supreme Court and lawmakers from the Zionist Union and most of Yesh Atid do not plan to attend the official ceremony honoring 50 years of settlement in Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights on Wednesday in Gush Etzion, sparking outrage among the political Right.
In response to a letter of complaint from Meretz MK Esawi Frej that Justice Neal Hendel would be attending the event, the Supreme Court President’s Chambers wrote on Tuesday that the court’s president, Miriam Naor, was invited several weeks ago to attend, and Hendel was asked to represent the judiciary.
Several days ago, the court received the detailed invitation, and “after reconsidering the matter, it was decided that a representative of the judiciary should not participate in the event. Therefore, Justice Hendel will not participate in it.”
Frej’s letter called the event political and controversial, pointing to the fact that its title calls it a celebration of the “liberation” of those areas.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), a frequent critic of the Supreme Court, called to stop inviting representatives of the judiciary to state events, calling the refusal to attend Wednesday’s celebration “unprecedented and disgraceful.”
“If anyone had any doubt, it was made clear again today that the Supreme Court justices bring to the court a personal, left-wing political agenda, which is expressed in their rulings, which repeatedly harm the settlers and the settlement enterprise,” he said. “We cannot accept a situation in which the senior member of the judiciary mixes political considerations and personal agendas in her decisions about which events to attend.”Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely
(Likud) said: “The Supreme Court president’s decision to boycott an official event is miserable and disrespects the balance between the judicial and executive branches.”
“The judiciary is taking off its judges’ robes and turning itself into an openly political player,” she said. “We need significant reforms that will newly regulate the separation of powers in Israel, protecting the government and the Knesset’s ability to follow the voters’ will.”
The Zionist Union chose to boycott the ceremony after opposition leader Isaac Herzog and Zionist Union/Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay were denied the opportunity to speak. Protocol for state ceremonies is for the prime minister and Knesset speaker to speak; the opposition leader is only required to be allowed to speak after the prime minister in the Knesset.
MK Haim Jelin will represent Yesh Atid at the ceremony.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett offered to give the opposition his four minutes to speak at the ceremony for the sake of national unity.
“My friends in the opposition, [boycotting] is not the way,” he said. “I think about Yonatan, age eight from Eli, about Ayala, age 13 from Ma’aleh Adumim, to whom you are basically saying they are second-class. Friends, our enemies do not know the difference between Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion, Har Adar or Ofra, Left or Right. They want to take all of our lives.”
Bennett added he is convinced the Left loves Israel as much as he does, saying: “Don’t divide the nation. Let’s stay united.”
Other politicians on the Right raged at the snub from the Left.
Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev (Likud) said: “There is no nation in the world that has a connection to its land like the Jewish people does to Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights. This connection must be clear and above all political dispute.”
Regev said she is embarrassed that a party called the Zionist Union is boycotting the ceremony, and that Labor’s historic leaders David Ben-Gurion and Shimon Peres “understood the historic value and strategic importance of these areas.”
Knesset Land of Israel Caucus chairmen Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) said: “The leaders of the left-wing parties have no shame anymore.
During the 10 days of repentance [between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur], they are spreading divisiveness and hatred. We are here to tell Mr. Gabbay and [Yesh Atid chairman] Mr. Lapid that unlike you, the people of Israel salutes the settlers of Judea and Samaria and the Golan and love all parts of its land.”
Zionist Union lawmakers defended their planned absence.
MK Eitan Cabel said there is no issue that divides Israeli society more than the settlements, and the height of that division was the 1995 assassination of prime minister and Labor leader Yitzhak Rabin.
“I’m not one of those who has a Pavlovian opposition to anything connected to settlements, and the Torah is for me the keystone of my understanding of our existence in the Land of Israel,” he said.
“In addition, I support the idea of two states for two nations, in which settlement blocs, including the Golan and Jordan Valley, are part of any agreement.”
This event, however, is “totally meant to glorify Bibi and his group of extremists leading us to the abyss,” and Herzog and Gabbay shouldn’t participate even if they are invited to speak, Cabel said.
Yesh Atid said the party "has representatives across the settlement blocs, in the Jordan Valley and in the Golan Heights where Eli Malka, the head of the regional council, recently left Likud to join Yesh Atid because he appreciated our total commitment to the Golan.
"We have made clear over and over that we are not boycotting the ceremony and said from the start that MK Haim Jelin will be representing us. We are not against the settlement movement (we believe that separation from the Palestinians is the way to secure the future of the settlement blocs)," a party spokesman added. "What we oppose is the idea of Jews boycotting Jews and we oppose the cynical use of this ceremony to try and divide the people of Israel.”
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