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Photo: AP
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández
Photo: AP
Honduran president won't light torch on Independence Day
After mounting criticism and political battles in Israel, Honduran President Hernández decides not to attend Israel's 70th Independence Day celebration; Regev slams critics of Hernández's invitation, saying 'opposition teamed up with BDS against Israel.'
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández will not light a torch on Israel's 70th Independence Day, officials in the Foreign Ministry said Monday following reports by Ynet Hernández was reconsidering his participation in the ceremony.

 

 

"The Foreign Ministry regrets the fact the president will not arrive and praise the friendship between the two countries," the ministry said.

 

Last week, Hernández confirmed he would attend the upcoming celebrations on Mount Herzl and accept the honor of being one of the torch lighters at the state ceremony.

 

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández  (Photo: AFP)
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (Photo: AFP)
  

 

The controversy was originally sparked after Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein threatened not to attend the torch lighting ceremony if an initiative by Culture Minister Miri Regev was introduced that would see Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin deliver a speech, triggering a dispute among ministers, former Knesset speakers and MKs.

 

Then, Culture Minister Miri Regev, in charge of plans for Israel's Independence Day celebrations, announced that the Foreign Ministry's Center for International Cooperation would participate in the ceremony, together with the Honduran president, who attended a social leadership course at the center in 1992.

 

His invitation to light a torch drew criticism in Israel as it was perceived as a move meant to facilitate the participation of Netanyahu. According to protocol, the presence of a foreign head of state at an official state ceremony obligates the attendance of the prime minister. 

 

Meretz leader MK Tamar Zandberg criticized the decision, saying it was a "scandalous decision that legitimizes a president responsible for gross violations of human rights in his country, solely to provide an excuse for Netanyahu to attend as well."

 

Criticism also came from former Israeli diplomats, who dubbed the decision a "cynical use and exploitation of the Center for International Cooperation."

 

In the wake of the fierce objections, officials representing Hernández informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry that Hernández—a staunch

supporter of Israel—was rethinking his original decision.

 

'Opposition teamed up with BDS against Israel'

Regrev attacked the opposition to Hernández's invitation on Monday, saying that “If President Hernández decides not to come to the event due to the slander by members of the opposition, primarily Zandberg, that would be reprehensible. It shows that the opposition teamed up with BDS groups against the State of Israel.” 

   

"We have an irresponsible opposition that does not understand the importance of Israel's international relations with the countries of the world," the culture minister continued.

 

“It is unthinkable that the president of Honduras, who received the blessing of President Obama when he was first elected, President Trump's blessing when he was re-elected, (and) received the blessing of European leaders will face criticism in this country… the opposition ruins every party and every state event of ours," she accused.

 

 (Photo: Yoav Dudkovitz)
(Photo: Yoav Dudkovitz)

 

“If indeed he decides not to come it will be a major missed opportunity for the State of Israel. The president of Honduras signed an agreement worth $150 million with the State of Israel. I did not see Miss Zandberg tweeting about this budget and these agreements," Regev went on to say. 

 

“Ultimately, the opposition should also be responsible and unite around the events of Independence Day, around the torch lighting ceremony and definitely not slander a president elected by his people,” she asserted.

 

Regev also addressed the agreement reached with Knesset Speaker Edelstein regarding Netanyahu's own participation in the torch lighting ceremony. Regev announced on Sunday that Netanyahu would light a torch during the ceremony and even speak.

 

Edelstein, meanwhile, claimed Regev's announcement did not reflect the agreement he reached with Netanyahu, saying that "according to the understandings reached, the prime minister will carry a torch on behalf of the Israeli government and add words of blessing when lighting the torch."

 

Asked whether anyone would limit the prime minister's speaking time at the ceremony, Regev replied: "I do not count minutes, not for the prime minister nor for Yuli Edelstein. I propose we wait until a mutual announcement is released; the most important thing is that stateliness wins."  



 


First published: 04.09.18, 18:09
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