Honduran president to light torch at Israel's 70th, obligating PM's attendance
A staunch supporter of Israel and a graduate of an Israeli leadership course in 1992, Juan Orlando Hernández as a torchbearer at upcoming Independence Day celebrations provides needed pretext for Netanyahu's presence in accordance with protocol, despite fierce opposition from senior officials.
Earlier this week, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein threatened not to attend the torch lighting ceremony if an initiative by Culture Minister Miri Regev is introduced that would see Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin deliver a speech, sparking a dispute among ministers, former Knesset speakers and MKs.
Hernández, who said that his Central American country would always stand by Israel’s side, will light a torch on behalf of the Center for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC), marking the first time ever in the history of the ceremony that the head of another state has lit a torch.
According to protocol, the presence of a foreign president at an official state ceremony obligates the attendance of the prime minister.
Minister Regev confirmed that the MFAIC would participate in the ceremony, together with the Honduran president, who graduated from the organization in 1992.
Hernández began his diplomatic career after completing a social leadership course at the MFAIC that year and was the first graduate who eventually became a head of state.
The MFAIC was founded as the official aid arm of the State of Israel and to the present day it has trained almost 300,000 cadets from some 140 developing countries in fields in which Israel is known to excel, such as agriculture, education, medicine, empowering women and preparing for emergencies.
“I welcome the Honduran president. I am happy and proud that the Honduran president, a graduate of the MFAIC course, will be coming to the ceremony and will be accompanied by the torch-light on behalf of the Foreign Ministry,” Regev said.
“The MFAIC is the bearer of Israel's message of 'Tikkun olam' (healing the world) and brings with it to every place around the globe, in times of stress and normality, the wisdom and knowledge that exists in Israel in order to make the entire world a better place,” she added.
“Strengthening the good in the world is a goal for the State of Israel and I am happy that the center will carry a torch at Israel’s 70th Independence Day ceremony.”
In recent years, relations between Israel and Honduras have thrived, with the president of the country being a known staunch supporter of Israel.
Hernández has visited Israel several times, and the two countries have signed a series of bilateral agreements on a variety of fields, including security, water and agricultural development.
“As long as I am president, Honduras will stand by Israel’s side,” the president said in the past.
Last December, Honduras was one of the only countries to have voted with Israel in the United Nations when the General Assembly convened for an emergency session, passing a resolution declaring US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel "null and void."