The following is a press release from the Knesset, detailing the vociferous dispute between opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Camp-Labor) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) on Wednesday. It is probably a rare occasion when an official parliamentary publication, normally reserved to discussions of upcoming legislation, attempts to set the record set on a bar brawl, but here it is, nevertheless:
Opposition leader Herzog calls on Netanyahu to condemn incitement against President Rivlin; PM to Herzog: Denounce Breaking the Silence organization
Publicized: December 17, 2015
During Wednesday`s plenary sitting, opposition leader MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Camp) turned to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) and said: ”I call on you in the name of a large part of the Israeli public to come to the podium and declare that Reuven ‘Ruby’ Rivlin is your president. Your supporters among the people of Israel must hear you say this explicitly.”
”Not far from here in Zion Square 20 years ago there were those who called to ‘drive out Rabin with blood and fire’ and you didn’t see and didn’t hear it, Herzog told the PM. ”This time you won’t be able to claim that you didn’t see and hear it because you must take a step, make a statement and make a decision,” he said.
In response to the opposition leader`s remarks, Netanyahu said, ”From personal experience, I can tell you there is criticism of leaders. I oppose all incitement and all violent discourse against the president and against all other leader and public figure in Israel. At the same time I will continue to fight for each and every person’s right to express their opinion because that is how democracy works.”
The prime minister then challenged Herzog: ”MK Herzog, I have a request of you. I want you to come up to this stage and condemn ‘Breaking the Silence,’ that is slandering IDF soldiers around the world,” he said.
Breaking the Silence, its website says, is ”an organization of veteran combatants who have served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada and have taken it upon themselves to expose the Israeli public to the reality of everyday life in the Occupied Territories.”
The opposition leader then took to the podium to respond and said, ”I noticed that you compared yourself to Abu Mazen,” adding that just as the Palestinian leader doesn’t condemn attacks, ”neither do you.”
He said the prime minister had fallen short of condemning the incitement against Israel’s president.
Herzog received applause from the opposition, at which point Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein stopped the debate and called for a five minute recess.
Following the short recess, Edelstein reproached the MKs for their applause and said that the Knesset was ”not a circus.” He then invited Herzog to return to the podium and conclude his remarks.
”Breaking the Silence has crossed the line in certain situations, but people who have fought on the frontlines should be able to express themselves in the right places,” Herzog said. ”I am disgusted by this opinion, but I will fight to the end to allow people to say it.”
Addressing the natural gas deal, the PM said ”unfortunately, the discussion on the gas has become political. The gas must not remain in the sea. We must extract it from the ground. Without the gas plan we will remain with a small monopoly. I received the recommendations of the Economic Affairs Committee, and I will give my response soon.”
Netanyahu also discussed the diplomatic situation and said: ”There are two contradicting trends in the international arena. One is hostile to the State of Israel and is manifested in hypocritical decisions – and this has been going on for years. But there is also a positive trend at the level of the countries themselves, which are tightening the relations with Israel and the cooperation. The United States is being joined by other superpowers, because they want to fight fanaticism and connect with progress. Our feet are planted in the fight against the terror of yesterday`s world, and also in the innovation of tomorrow`s world.”