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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite threats of provocative protests by far-right activists against Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, the official memorial ceremony marking 80 years since the 1929 Hebron riots concluded relatively smoothly Monday evening, with the most outspoken protest not coming from the audience, but from Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.
Rivlin, who represented the Knesset at the ceremony, lashed out against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying that "anyone who thinks that in destroying Hebron, Jerusalem will be established has not learned a thing. Anyone who thinks that in drying out Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim, we will build Tel Aviv, or who really believes that in starving the hilltop communities we will earn recognition of our territorial rights - will ultimately, god forbid, stumble like others have done."
"Anyone who thinks that in this manner we will save ourselves from coming destruction is simply grasping on to a false hope," added Rivlin. Sources close to Rivlin said Monday that he had planned in advance to make his position on the settlements "clear" during the speech, which was held during the dedication of a square in memory of the 67 Jews - including three young children - who were killed in the 1929 riots. The ceremony was the first-ever official government recognition of the 1929 attacks in Hebron, in which the city's ancient Jewish community was targeted and expelled.
"The land of Israel is acquired through merit and not through drying-out and freezing," said Rivlin, who was the keynote speaker at the evening event. We will not give legitimacy to cut after cut. We cannot continue to hold on to Israel with a slack grasp and weak heart. We will not secure our existence through asking for forgiveness for that very existence, through hanging our head, and through weakness."
Rivlin has in the past told The Jerusalem Post that he believes Netanyahu holds right-wing beliefs regarding settlements, and simply is in need of "a reminder" regarding the proper course of action. Sources closes to Rivlin emphasized that he "is certain that the prime minister is making a great effort to coordinate between his beliefs and principles and the American pressure."
But "even in diplomacy," said Rivlin, "there are red lines."
Diaspora affairs minister Yuli Edelstein also participated in the ceremony, but although he is considered one of the more right-leaning Likud ministers, Edelstein refrained from speaking out against the prime minister.
In advance of the ceremony, the most controversial attendee was Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubenstein, a religiously observant judge criticized by settler advocates for left-wing views. Rubenstein's attendance evoked the ire of both right- and left-wing organizations. Peace Now sec.-gen. Yariv Oppenheimer argued that the ceremony was in fact a political demonstration and that a supreme court justice had no place at such an event. Rubenstein's attendance, he argued, was a "clear political message".
And on the right, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel complained that Rubenstein's attendance was a slap in the face. dir.-gen. Eyal Nochi complained that it was Supreme Court Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch - and not a substitute - that should have attended.
"As the ceremony marks 80 years since the horrible massacre, we are certain that the honor of those killed demands the participation of the Supreme Court president," wrote Nochi in a letter to Courts Manager Judge Moshe Gal.
Far-right activist Baruch Marzel also called on activists to protest Rubenstein's presence in the West Bank city. In the course of the visit, Marzel approached Rubenstein and called him "[Supreme Court Chief Justice] Dorit Beinisch's pet religious judge."
Police who were providing security at the event distanced Marzel from the judge.
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