President Moshe Katsav faced a barrage of heckling Wednesday evening from Likud members at a celebration marking the 120th anniversary of Revisionist founder Binyamin Ze'ev Jabotinsky's birth.
The event, in the theater of the Diamond Exchange in Ramat Gan, was attended by old-time Revisionists, true ideologues who were part of the nucleus of the Likud. Some of them believed that Katsav, who was a leading figure in Likud prior to taking on the apolitical role of president, had somehow let them down in the decision-making process.
His opening remarks were platitudes about Jabotinsky the visionary who was a man ahead of his time.
There was mild heckling from people with whom Katsav has fallen out of favor, but the harassment grew louder and angrier when he started to review developments that had taken place in just over a decade, citing as the three most revolutionary changes in Israel's policy the Oslo Accords, the acceptance of the concept of a sovereign Palestinian state and disengagement from Gaza.
The mere mention of these milestones sparked a wave of outrage, prompting Katsav to respond: "Don't take my words as an endorsement of Oslo."
When he mentioned disengagement, there were angry cries from the audience. "You didn't do anything to stop it!"
Again Katsav had to defend himself. "I didn't say a word in favor of those decisions. I am neither the representative nor the spokesman for the government. If you have complaints, you know where to take them."
He was heckled again when he turned to the March elections and cautioned his listeners to ensure that they understood the platform of the party for which they cast their votes. In the last elections, he said, the electorate did not insist on a clear-cut mission statement. "The nation did not have specific guidelines," he said, declaring that this time the voters must demonstrate more responsibility.
Katsav's feathers were ruffled when the hecklers still refused to be silent.
"Stop relating to me as the representative of the government," he thundered. "I am the representative of the State of Israel. I am the representative of all the people of Israel."
Finally, there was applause.
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