Photo: Marc Israel Sellem, Amir Salman
PM Netanyahu (L) and Speaker Edelstein
Photo: Marc Israel Sellem, Amir Salman
Sima Kadmon
The longest 14 minutes of his life
Op-ed: Knesset Speaker Edelstein should not be shocked at PM Netanyahu breaking his word, speaking for 14 minutes during torch lighting ceremony, as duplicitous ploy by Culture Minister Regev, PM's wife Sara comes to fruition. All points on gentlemanly agreement between Edelstein, PM voided, as Regev showed everyone who's really in charge.
Let anyone who actually believed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will make good on his word to only give a five minute speech stand up. Only one? Okay, Yuli, you can sit back down. The rest of you, you're hired. Welcome to the State of Miri Regev.



According to the laws of that country, what's the point of being in power if you can't cheat, lie, renege on agreements, catch as catch can and do whatever you please? Decent folk, who stick to their words and agreements should seek residence elsewhere. Miri Regev rules supreme here.


And she has indubitably been successful at it. Her victory photo was broadcast to every home Wednesday—the culture minister sitting next to the prime minister's wife, thick as thieves, giggling and hugging not due to the enormity of the occasion but at the ploy's success.


Culture Minister Regev (L) and Sara Netanyahu. The pair's ploy worked to perfection (Photo: Herzliya Studios)
Culture Minister Regev (L) and Sara Netanyahu. The pair's ploy worked to perfection (Photo: Herzliya Studios)


Because there is no other way to describe the events surrounding the torch lighting ceremony for Israel's 70th Independence Day but as a deceitful ploy, concocted by the two women leading Netanyahu (so as not to say leading him by the nose), as well as the premier himself—whose collusion (so as not to say weakness) enabled the deed to go through.


It's not like it couldn't have been done another way. The Israel Prize ceremony that took place Thursday showed you can have a stately, dignified and even moving ceremony, without pyrotechnics or gargantuan budgets.


Miriam Peretz's speech and, moreover, her earnest embrace with David Grossman—two bereaved parents coming from such different worlds—showed that culture, manners and humility are stronger than kitsch and hollow catchphrases.


And Education Minister Naftali Bennett? He has once again proven that when it comes to stateliness, he's got Netanyahu beat.


An embrace by 2 bereaved parents: Miriam Peretz (L) and David Grossman (Photo: Mizmor)
An embrace by 2 bereaved parents: Miriam Peretz (L) and David Grossman (Photo: Mizmor)


Netanyahu attended a torch lighting ceremony he was not supposed to attend. He did not offer a welcome greeting, nor were "a few sentences from the Declaration of Independence" on offer—as the handshake agreement with the Knesset speaker said, after ten minutes of cordial, positive words between the two.


Bibi was pleased, Edelstein later characterized their meeting. He even complimented Edelstein on his ideas: to toast the IDF's soldiers, to say a sentence or two about Israeli hi-tech and to bid farewell and walk off.


O, our Yuli, how the mighty hath fallen. It was the man who was denied the right to Aliyah, who has known innumerable indignities in a Soviet forced labor camp and has served three years of hard labor in a gulag that fell, like a rookie, in a trap of vulgarity and duplicity.


Two days earlier, on Memorial Day eve, he received a letter from the Culture Ministry's director-general instructing to limit his speech to only seven minutes, due to time constraints.

PM Netanyahu's speech ran 14 minutes instead of five (Photo: Herzliya Studios)
PM Netanyahu's speech ran 14 minutes instead of five (Photo: Herzliya Studios)

But what could he say when the prime minister himself was allotted a measly five minutes? Someone who has been in politics for 22 years and knows Netanyahu inside and out, however, should maybe have known better: all of the handshakes, agreements and press releases amounted to nothing.


What we got onscreen was a ringing slap in the face, shaming on live television, a public humiliation in front of the entire country. Instead of the five minutes allotted him, the premier spoke for 14 minutes, in a speech that with the passage of time will be crowned the beginning of the election campaign.


And, truth be told, he can speak. When the mission was to leave his mark on the ceremony, to be the only one talked about after the fact, to leave behind the Knesset speaker and all other ministers and MKs Regev so diligently sat far away, where cameras never reach – what more do you need?


Edelstein told his inner circle Thursday that it was fortuitous he spoke before the prime minister, because if he had to follow him he would have found it hard to maintain an air of festivity. "You can't give off positivity when you're fuming on the inside", he told them. I think that sums up the feeling of the betrayed speaker.


Not only the length of the speech and its content broke agreements, however. Edelstein would not consent to entering together with the prime minister. According to the agreement, the prime minister and his wife should have entered and sat down.


The Netanyahu couple entering flanked by honor guard (Photo: Herzliya Studios)
The Netanyahu couple entering flanked by honor guard (Photo: Herzliya Studios)


But here the culture minister took a liberty to grovel and sent an honor guard to welcome the Netanyahu couple. Regev did not only crack the Holocaust, you see—she has also cracked Sara Netanyahu's genome.


And she knows precisely which victory photo the prime minister's wife is after: entering to the sound of trumpets alongside the prime minister, hand in hand, while waving regally to the assembled crowd with a shy smile and to hear the cheers of the crowd as soldiers stand at attention.


No prime minister's wife received such an honor previously. And that's exactly what Regev gave her.


The prerogative of being the person authorizing the ceremony to proceed was also taken from Edelstein, when the IDF officer overseeing the proceedings appealed to both Edelstein and Netanyahu and asked for permission to go ahead.


"Gentlemen," he said, rather than "sir," as is customary. Edelstein was so stunned he couldn't speak. But count on Netanyahu to not let such an opportunity pass him by as he quickly nodded to show everyone who's boss.


Knesset Speaker Edelstein entering (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)
Knesset Speaker Edelstein entering (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)


Edelstein, for his part, looked as if he was signaling to the solider he's been kidnapped and was there under duress. The scorn, contempt and laughter at the Netanyahu residence after the ceremony can only be imagined, as they tallied these small victories.


Edelstein further sought to differentiate between the premier and himself by having Netanyahu announced as a torch lighter while he was the Knesset speaker giving a speech. Both Netanyahu and Edelstein were introduced with the same language.


"I tried going with the holiday's spirit," Edelstein told his confidants, when he explained the longest 14 minutes of his life, wearing what he described as a "poker face."


He couldn't say whether he felt like a sucker. It's not like he was walking along when an armed brigand mugged him. It was the prime minister of Israel who pickpocketed him.


All of this criticism hardly bothered Regev. Perhaps even quite the opposite. The fact she has sullied the cleanest man in the Likud party may help her considerably in the race to come, in which everything is permitted en route to the next primaries.


Edelstein came first in the Likud's last primaries, a feat he is unlikely to duplicate (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Edelstein came first in the Likud's last primaries, a feat he is unlikely to duplicate (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


After the spat with Netanyahu, Edelstein's chances of finishing first—like last time—are now slimmer than the chances of Bibi sticking to his word on the torch lighting ceremony.


They exchanged no words during the ceremony itself. When Edelstein spoke, Netanyahu drummed on his knees impatiently, as if Edelstein was eating up his speech's time and not the other way around. They will most likely not be speaking anytime soon either.


After the ceremony, Edelstein met with members of the Knesset guard to apologize to them for the events they were forced to take part in. "I have seen everything in life, as well as these things," he told his confidants. "So if everything's allowed, let's see what I can do."


With all due respect to the speaker, however, until he's seen Regev, he ain't seen nothing yet.


פרסום ראשון: 04.22.18, 00:09
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