Sources close to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin dismissed as a publicity stunt on Thursday reports alleging that the famously right-leaning legislator had approved a request to hold a memorial day for murdered Kach Party leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in the Knesset.
The senior staff member told The Jerusalem Post that the report, first published in the Hebrew-language daily Yisrael Hayom, was a stunt initiated by National Union MK Michael Ben-Ari, who was a student of the controversial rabbi and a member of his political party before it was outlawed. According to the staff member, Ben-Ari had approached Rivlin to gauge the possibility of carrying out a personally sponsored event to memorialize Kahane.
Rivlin's office emphasized that at no time had Rivlin consented to holding any memorial on the floor of the Knesset plenum.
In only two cases are memorials for MKs held on the plenum: immediately after the death of the MK or former MK, or after a specific law is passed to establish the memorial as an annual event, as in the case of assassinated Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi and prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
"Rivlin responded that it would be incomprehensible that it would be something similar to Gandhi [Ze'evi] and Rabin," said the staffer.
The staffer emphasized that regarding a privately sponsored event, every MK had the right to hold at least one such event on the Knesset premises.
But Rivlin conditioned that statement, too. He said that if the goal of the gathering was to preserve the memory of a former MK, he would look into its legal possibilities - but, he warned, if Ben-Ari was trying to create "a reinvigoration of Kahane's legacy" or to use the Knesset to mount a demonstration, then he would not approve the request.
"At the bottom line," the senior staffer said, "all of this was presented as a theoretical case, and not as something that is currently being planned. And in any case, Rivlin does not intend to allow people to return Kahane to the Knesset through the back door."
The Brooklyn-born Kahane was first elected to the Knesset in 1984, when his party gained a lone seat in the elections. Four years later, he was ousted when Kach was declared a racist party, and its members were barred from holding Knesset seats. In 1990, he was shot and killed by an Egyptian-American who was later proved to be a member of the same al-Qaida network that carried out the first terror attack on the World Trade Center.