In a compromise deal ending days of uncertainty, it was agreed Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will light a torch at the state ceremony marking Israel’s 70th Independence Day, on behalf of all the governments of Israel since the founding of the state.
According to the resolution, announced in a joint statement by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and the prime minister, Netanyahu will also give a brief speech on the Declaration of Independence.
The prime minister agreed to convene the Ministerial Committee for Symbols and Ceremonies, headed by Culture Minister Miri Regev, to ratify a decision that the country’s prime minister will take part in the event once a decade.
“I am glad that reason and stateliness overcame personal considerations, and the prime minister will take part in the torch-lighting ceremony,” Regev said. “I intend to arrange that every decade the prime minister will light a torch on behalf of the state in honor of the governments of Israel.”
Regev ignited a spat with Edelstein last week when she insisted that Netanyahu should deliver an address at the torch-lighting ceremony.
The speaker had insisted that in keeping with tradition, the prime minister should not take part in the state ceremony, which is run by the Knesset, to avoid the event becoming political.
Undermining Edelstein’s argument, however, footage uncovered last week showed that Netanyahu, in his first term as prime minister, did participate at the ceremony in 1998 — marking Israel’s 50th anniversary.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was to have attended the event, which would have allowed for a compromise based on protocol rules, as the presence of a foreign head of state at the ceremony on Mount Herzl would have required Netanyahu to also be present.
However, on Monday, Hernandez announced he would not be attending.
Hernandez’s involvement in the ceremony had been criticized by many, including Meretz party head Tamar Zandberg who said that the Central American nation was a corrupt human rights violator and that having him at the ceremony would dishonor Israel.