MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) has been engaged in a battle to honor former MK Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was murdered in New York City in 1990, by giving a memorial speech from the Knesset podium. On Wednesday, it was revealed that Ben-Ari's struggle has drawn opposition from well beyond the Knesset, and that U.S. envoy George Mitchell has taken an interest in the matter.
Arutz Sheva quotes unnamed sources that said that Mitchell reportedly sent a message via the American embassy asking Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin if he planned to approve Ben-Ari's request to speak about Kahane in the Knesset. Rivlin, who recently canceled the planned speech after it received initial approval, replied in the negative.
Upon hearing the report, Ben-Ari accused Mitchell of “crossing a red line” by interfering in internal Israeli politics. “I was elected by citizens of the independent state of Israel... It's amazing how members of the American government are attempting to intervene in the daily affairs of the Knesset, which is supposed to be a sovereign body.”
Rivlin is “sending a message of weakness,” Ben-Ari accused.
MK Aryeh Eldad (Ichud Leumi) backed his colleague, saying, “If the American embassy did this... this is beyond audacious, it is a humiliation and a degradation of Israeli democracy.” The veteran MK encouraged his fellow lawmakers to fight for Ben-Ari's right to speak in Kahane's memory. "Even those who opposed Kahane must enlist in the struggle for Israeli sovereignty and freedom of expression,” he explained.
On Monday, it was reported that the U.S. had turned down a visa request filed by Ben-Ari. The MK had planned to visit American Jewish communities.
The rejection was apparently due to Ben-Ari's arrest during the course of demonstrations against the forced removal in 2005 of Israeli citizens from Gaza and northern Samaria.