Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein held a meeting this week with the heads of the Information Center and the producers of the torchlighting ceremony to be held in about three weeks, at Israel's 70th Independence Day commencement.
According to the report this evening, Edelstein made it clear to the Center's staff and producers that if Prime Minister Netanyahu or the President of the State were invited to address the ceremony that the Knesset Speaker alone has traditionally led for years, he will boycott it.
"Be advised that if the Prime Minister or the President of the State are invited to address the ceremony, I and the entire Knesset will boycott the event," the Knesset Speaker was quoted as saying.
"I will not speak, the Knesset Guard will not participate, and the entire Knesset that participated in the organization of the ceremony, and under whose official responsibility it is, will absent itself from the event."
Culture Minister Miri Regev, who was behind the idea of adding the Prime Minister and President's speeches to the ceremony, reacted harshly to Edelstein upon hearing the report.
"It saddens me that the Knesset speaker turns a state ceremony into a personal and petty quarrel," Regev said. "Mount Herzl is not a private estate, and with all due respect it is not a personal ceremony and personal matters must be removed from the agenda. The Knesset Guard, too, is not Edelstein's royal guard. The decision to attend the ceremony is solely for the Prime Minister.
"As decided by the ministerial committee to honor the 70th anniversary, it is true that the President of the country, the Prime Minister and world heads of state will speak at the ceremony. This will do honor to the State and its citizens and even to the Knesset and its leader," she said.
Knesset Speaker Edelstein responded to Regev's remarks and said, "The torch lighting ceremony is a ceremony for all the citizens of the State of Israel, and therefore the Knesset, which represents all segments of the people, is the only authority that can give expression to this and that is the State custom.
"It pains me that the Culture Minister is trying, for the first time in the history of the State, to harm a ceremony that is a refined and beautiful expression of the people of Israel and of Israeliness. The torchlighting ceremony is one of our beautiful and unique traditions, and whoever harms it would sabotage one of the most beautiful and exciting Israeli values we have," added Edelstein.