Netanyahu to light torch but not speak at Independence Day event

Regev refuses to accept agreement between Netanyahu and Edelstein.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to light a torch at the 70th Independence Day opening ceremony next week without giving a speech.
But Culture Minister Miri Regev rejected part of the compromise the premier reached with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein Sunday, keeping their feud alive.
Edelstein and Netanyahu met on Sunday afternoon to discuss the ongoing dispute over the annual torch-lighting ceremony on Mount Herzl. They agreed that the prime minister will participate once every decade and light a torch and only make brief remarks, like he did for Israel’s 50th year.
The two also agreed that the new procedure will be authorized by the Ministerial Committee for Ceremonies and Symbols.
However, Regev, the chairwoman of the ministerial committee, refuses to the bring the matter to a vote, saying that after Independence Day, “the committee will recommend an order for the ceremonies and celebrations for the 80th events, though I think that it is right and more democratic for the final decisions about the next decade’s event to be made by the government that will serve at the time.”
The compromise was meant to end an ongoing dispute between Edelstein and Regev over the format of the ceremony.
Regev wants there to be addresses by the president, prime minister, Knesset speaker and a foreign leader – likely the president of Honduras – in honor of Israel’s 70th year, while Edelstein seeks to keep the traditional format in which only the Knesset speaker makes remarks on Mount Herzl.
Edelstein has said that the Knesset is the representative of all the citizens of Israel, and the legislature, including the Knesset guard, which marches in the ceremony, will not participate in the event if it is changed.
A prime minister has taken part in the ceremony at least once before.
In 1998, Netanyahu, who was prime minister then, lit a torch in honor of Israel’s jubilee and gave a short speech consisting mostly of quotes from the Declaration of Independence.
Following the agreement, Regev said: “I’m glad that reason and statesmanship won. The agreement reached – by which the prime minister will also appear, speak and light a torch at the torch-lighting ceremony and event honoring 70 years of Israel – adds honor to the ceremony, the state and society.”
President Reuven Rivlin made remarks at a Mimouna (Moroccan post-Passover celebration) in Ashkelon Saturday night in which Edelstein was also present, which could be seen as him weighing in on the matter.
Rivlin directed his remarks to Edelstein, calling him: “Knesset speaker, representative of the sovereign in Israel and the nation.”
The president invoked one of the themes of Mimouna, of opening one’s doors and welcoming neighbors in, and called for a cooling-off of disputes, a possible hint towards the one in which Edelstein is involved.
“Opening a door means opening the heart. Why should we open our hearts only once a year? Let’s open our hearts even in times of dispute. We can argue, but know that we are brothers and sisters,” Rivlin said.
Edelstein said: “I wish that these days will go by without disputes, with true unity.”