Lapid rebuffs Regev request for joint call against protesting on Independence Day

Opposition leader says won’t pretend country ‘celebrating together’ on upcoming national holidays after petition to pause demonstrations on Memorial Day wins broad Knesset support

Left: Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on March 20, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90). Right: Transportation Minister Miri Regev attends a conference in Tel Aviv on March 22, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Left: Opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on March 20, 2023. (Erik Marmor/Flash90). Right: Transportation Minister Miri Regev attends a conference in Tel Aviv on March 22, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid on Thursday turned down Transportation Minister Miri Regev’s request that he co-sign a statement calling for a pause of nationwide protests against the government’s judicial overhaul on Israel’s upcoming Independence Day.

By contrast, a petition pushed by opposition MK Chili Tropper (National Unity party) on Wednesday, reportedly signed by 90 lawmakers from both the government and opposition, called for Memorial Day to be left out of the protest movement.

Memorial Day, set to begin the evening of April 24, sees large swaths of the Israeli public visiting the graves of loved ones who have been killed in army service or terror attacks. Many of the ceremonies around the country feature speeches by ministers. Independence Day is celebrated the following day.

Regev sought to expand the petition’s scope on Wednesday, asking that protests also be suspended on Independence Day and Holocaust Remembrance Day, and calling on the opposition leader to co-sign a joint statement with her to that effect (Regev, beyond her ministerial portfolio, is charged with organizing the national ceremonies for those days).

Lapid refused to sign Regev’s expanded document, saying that to do so would be to “pretend” that the current situation was acceptable.

“We will not pretend that we are celebrating together and that everything is fine while the government is tearing apart the people of Israel and erasing democracy,” Lapid said in a statement.

“We will not sit back and watch another embarrassing show of flattery for the Netanyahu family,” he added.

MK Chili Tropper speaks at the 2022 ACUM Awards ceremony for Hebrew Song near Tel Aviv on September 7, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

In Tropper’s original petition, he called for “all factions” of the Knesset and “all the people of Israel” to “refrain from bringing the debate into the cemeteries” and to “leave Memorial Day out of the argument.”

Among the signatories on that document were Lapid, National Union party head Benny Gantz, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, Justice Minister Yair Levin and MKs Simcha Rothman, Avigdor Liberman and others, the Walla news site said.

Also on Thursday, dozens of members of bereaved military families demonstrated against the government’s judicial makeover program outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv as part of a “national day of paralysis” declared by protest leaders.

Gavriella Zimmerman, whose son Amir was killed in 2004, said that she felt she had no choice other than to protest.

“As a bereaved mother it’s hard to wave the flag, but I feel like I am on the edge of the abyss — one small push and we will fall in and won’t come back again,” she told Walla.

“This is not what Amir died for, a ruined country,” she said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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