MK Ahmed Tibi said on Thursday that he would agree to name a new aerospace center in the Israeli-Arab city of Taibe after Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, if the city of Netanya agrees to name its city hall after former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Speaking in an interview with the Ma'ariv newspaper’s local edition for the Sharon area, Tibi said, “The final chapter in Ramon’s life was great and his death is tragic. I have great empathy towards the family and I understand their pain. However, I was surprised to receive an invitation to the inauguration of the aerospace center which dictates that it will be named after Ramon.”
“To tell the truth, even the aerospace center in Taibe was surprised and did not like the idea,” added Tibi, who repeated his reasoning for not naming the center after Ramon. “When you commemorate someone you commemorate his entire life, and for most of his life Ramon was a fighter pilot who participated in the Lebanon war and bombed there. His shelling killed civilians. This a sore point for us, and we asked that our feelings be considered.”
Asked whether the Israeli government, which allocated some funds for the aerospace center, has a right to determine in whose name it will be called, Tibi replied, “No. I stand by the principle that we should never accept that it be dictated who will be perpetuated in exchange for the transfer of funds by the Israeli government. It is our privilege. Why stop there? Maybe the Ministry of Education will say: We’ll pay you six million shekels, and maybe you can name a school after [Menachem] Begin.”
“Some will say: Begin signed an agreement with Egypt. So I say, even Arafat has a Nobel Prize, and Israelis called him a terrorist until they signed an agreement with him, and then rubbed elbows with him after he won the Nobel Prize. How about naming Netanya’s city hall after Arafat in exchange for 150 thousand shekels?”
The Netanya municipality said in response, “We have clear procedures regarding municipal commemoration, and any person who is interested can contact the names committee and his application will be reviewed. As for what was said in the article, we see no need to respond.”