Soldier memorial organization rails against proposed March 3 election day
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Soldier memorial organization rails against proposed March 3 election day

Yad Labanim says date set by Knesset legal adviser if Israel goes to another vote clashes with memorial day for IDF soldiers whose burial place is unknown

Soldiers stand at attention during the annual ceremony for soldiers whose burial places are unknown on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery on March 17, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)
Soldiers stand at attention during the annual ceremony for soldiers whose burial places are unknown on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery on March 17, 2016. (Judah Ari Gross/Times of Israel)

A memorial organization for fallen Israeli soldiers has urged the Central Elections Committee to reconsider its proposed March 3 date for possible Knesset elections, saying the date clashes with a remembrance day.

The Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers Whose Place of Burial is Unknown is held every year on the seventh day of the Hebrew month of Adar, which according to Jewish tradition is the date on which the Bible’s Moses was born and died; his burial place is unknown.

The memorial day is marked annually by a solemn state ceremony at Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem, where the names of all IDF troops who have died but whose bodies are in an unknown location are engraved on a wall.

The next 7th of Adar falls on March 3, coinciding with the date set on Friday by the Knesset’s top legal adviser, Eyal Yinon, as the likely election day if Israelis go to the polls for a third time in less than a year, as appears increasingly likely.

Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon attends a Knesset committee meeting on June 6, 2016. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“Make a note — if there are no developments, we are preparing for elections on Tuesday, March 3, 2020,” Yinon said in a speech at a legal conference.

Eli Ben-Shem, chairman of memorial organization Yad Labanim, contacted the Central Elections Committee on Sunday, asking it not to hold the Knesset vote — which is always accompanied by a national vacation day — on that day.

“In my view, it would be inappropriate for people to go shopping and voting while bereaved families unite to remember their loved ones,” he said.

Two rounds of elections, in April and September, failed to produce an elected government — a first in Israeli political history. The Knesset now has a December 11 deadline for at least 61 lawmakers to agree on an MK to form a government, or parliament will be dissolved and third elections set.

Neither Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu nor Blue and White chair Benny Gantz has so far been able to form a government, even though both have said they want to avoid a third vote.

Last week, the director of the Central Elections Committee warned that the panel was currently unprepared for the vote if the Knesset indeed dissolves.

Central Elections Committee director Orly Adas during a press conference at the Knesset on December 5, 2019. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“We don’t have staff, offices, equipment. The storerooms are empty. This is the current situation,” Orly Adas said during a press conference at the Knesset.

She said the committee was facing a serious budget shortfall following the past two elections.

“We don’t have the professional workers who know what election work is,” she said.

Adas, who earlier this month said the earliest date to hold third elections was February 25, explained it was not possible to hold a vote before then because parties need time to assemble their electoral slates and the Supreme Court must rule on whether candidates are legally qualified to run.

“The times can’t be cut,” she said.

The committee will also likely need a new chairperson, after Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer said last month there was “no chance” he would take up the post for a third time.

Under Israeli law, the Central Elections Committee chief is a member of the Supreme Court chosen by the other justices. No other judge of the top court has publicly expressed interest in the position.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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