'Israel is a beacon of hope'

PM refers in Knesset memorial to state visionary Herzl and constitution. Opposition chairman harshly criticizes remarks.

Mordechai Sones ,

Beacon of hope
Beacon of hope

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed the idea of a constitution this evening (Monday) in a speech in memory of the Visionary of the State, Binyamin Ze'ev Herzl.

"A constitution will establish the status of Israel as a Jewish state, and there is no contradiction between Israel being a democracy and the state of the Jewish people," Netanyahu said.

He also referred to Israel's standing in the world and said that "Israel is a beacon of enlightenment and hope".

Netanyahu described how Herzl succeeded beyond all expectations. Not only did his vision of a Jewish state take shape, but a hundred years after the convening of the First Zionist Congress in Basel, the Jewish state is a modern state with extraordinary achievements and the strongest army in the Middle East, which is capable of protecting our state against any threat, he related.

Opposition Chairman MK Yitzchak Herzog spoke of Herzl's vision of a Jewish state that would be a haven for the Jewish people. "Even today, the Jews do not have a safer place than their homeland: Antisemitism has not stopped, it exists and thrives and raises its head. Sometimes it takes on a pure form of Jew-hatred and sometimes it disguises itself as Israel-hatred - but the hatred is the same hatred. The wickedness is the same. BDS sprouted in precisely the same hothouse, of antisemitism, incitement, misunderstanding the true story of our country, and not knowing the historical facts or silencing them."

He attacked the idea of a constitution and said that "no momentary political capital or the smell of elections in the air justify violating what was promised in the Declaration of Independence and does not justify incitement against a minority living among us. No fleeting electoral consideration of some special-interest group justifies a series of legislative initiatives that degrade the Declaration of Independence, the vision of the Prophets, or the dream of Herzl.

"The Zionist debate today is not about the very existence of the State of Israel, which is a fait accompli, but about the image of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state with a deep foundation of social justice and individual liberty for generations to come."

He also spoke about the political issue. "Like then, so today, the decision to divide the land sits at the door of the Zionist movement. Like then, so today, it is not simple and it divides the people, the contemporary Zionist movement. A dilemma between what was promised to our forefathers in the Book of Books and what can be achieved in political reality," he said.

"When there are people sitting in this Knesset, members of Zionist parties, shamelessly talking about a bi-national state that discriminates between its citizens, a state in terms of borders without morals and without a guide, while in the Knesset there sit pseudo-Zionists who hold absolute claims that the entire land is ours without compromise and without borders - a position that characterized the Arab side and is perceived as messianic nationalism - then in 2017 the moral basis on which the state's Visionary founded it will erode the justification for our country's existence," Herzog concluded.