Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev insisted that she has the final say regarding Israel's 70th-anniversary ceremony and not Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, as the dust-up over who will be the keynote speaker at the ceremonial torch lighting refuses to fade from the headlines.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein had told Regev that he and the Knesset would boycott the official torch lighting event if Netanyahu insists on speaking. Edelstein is upset that Netanyahu is breaking the long-running tradition of the Knesset Speaker giving the featured speech at the ceremony in order in order to represent the unity of the people as epitomized by Israel's legislative branch.
On Sunday, Regev said during a press conference that Edelstein's assertation that the Knesset had sole authority over the official torch lighting ceremony was mistaken. "The ceremony has always been the ceremony of the government, not of the Knesset," insisted Regev.
"I am responsible for the success of the ceremony and for its failure, God forbid," added Regev. "No one has any say at this ceremony. The Knesset is not a participant. The government decided to honor the speaker of the Knesset in a speech during the ceremony, but that does not make the ceremony his own."
"I am disappointed with the behavior of the Knesset speaker," continued Regev ."With his remarks and conduct, he harms the statesmanship of the Knesset and the government. Only I am responsible for the torch lighting ceremony, not the Knesset speaker."
Israel traditionally opens its Independence Day festivities by holding a large torch lighting ceremony in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl. While the theme changes by the year, the event is meant to represent Israel's unity and 12 torches are lit by prominent Israelis in order to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. In 2017, it was decided that one torch is to be lit by a representative of diaspora Jewry.
Edelstein contends that the unity-centered ceremony must be led by the Knesset Speaker, who represents all of Israel's factions, and not feature a speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu who he considers a political figure. Netanyahu, Edelstein and Regev are all members of the Likud Knesser faction.
Should Edelstein carry out his threat and boycott the official torch lighting ceremony, it would mean that all other MKs would be absent as well, in addition to the official Knesset band and Knesset honor guard.
In an effort to find a compromise, Education Minister Naftali Bennett told Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week that he can be the keynote speaker at the Israel Prize ceremony instead of Bennett if the premier agrees to forgo his speech.
In a letter to Netanyahu, Bennett wrote that "especially on the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel, we must hold Independence Day celebrations as a unifying event rather than a dividing one, which will leave joy and pride in the hearts of the people. I call upon you to accept this proposal, in order to allow the celebrations to take place in the spirit of unity and statesmanship so that we all go on to Passover without any controversy clouding the holiday atmosphere."