Transport Minister Miri Regev, who is also in charge of the Independence Day events (Memorial Day starts Monday night, April 24, Yom Ha’Atzmaut Tuesday night, April 25 – DI), held an urgent discussion on Tuesday with Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, as well as with the head of the Personal Security Unit and other members of the security apparatus, regarding the torch lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl on the eve of Independence Day, and the government’s fear that protesters would disrupt the most sacred non-religious event of the year in Israel.
According to News12, Regev and the security folks came up with a list of exceptional steps:
- Each of the approximately 2,000 guests will have to present an ID card at the entrance in addition to the card bearing their name
- Police intelligence will monitor attempts to disrupt the event by protesters who sabotage the PA, electric, and TV systems
- If a protest or any other provocation erupts during the ceremony, the TV feed will switch to footage of the dress rehearsal
- Security at the entrance will be empowered––possibly based on lightning Knesset legislation––to confiscate any and all suspicious items
- The torchbearers will be driven to the event site in the morning, to avoid traffic jams resulting from protesters blocking the highways
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not speak at the event, and, like the torchbearers will be brought in well ahead of the ceremony
- Undercover agents will be sprinkled on the bleachers among the guests, to quickly take down protesters
- Finally: Regev et al may consider running the entire event without an audience
Meanwhile, according to Reshet Bet radio, the Shin Bet is investigating plots to disrupt the memorial ceremonies in military cemeteries across Israel. At this point, there are seven such cemeteries where bereaved families, or rather, individuals claiming to represent them, have already announced they would stage protests, amid the demand of some bereaved families that politicians should not show up at the cemeteries.
Every year, the Knesset sends MKs to represent the state at memorial ceremonies in the military cemeteries, without distinction of coalition or opposition. Now, this expression of solidarity is also being stepped on by some anarchists.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had a charged encounter with some bereaved parents who demanded that ministers who did not serve in the army should not represent the government in the memorial ceremonies. Gallant reportedly told one bereaved daughter, “So, go to the cemetery on a different day.”
Ouch. The defense minister’s office later denied this utterance, but all the horses were already out of the barn. And then Kan 11 News published the following transcript of the exchange between Gallant and the bereaved:
Chairman of the Council for the Commemoration of the Soldiers: “We recommend that you replace representatives who did not serve in the army; the families don’t want speakers who did not serve in the army.”
Defense Minister: “Shimon Peres didn’t serve in the army either.”
Bereaved daughter: “I’m not ready for a draft-dodging minister to come to our cemetery.”
Defense Minister: “Don’t come on Memorial Day, come the day before.”
Bereaved brother: “It’s possible to consider that politicians would lay a wreath, but not give speeches.”
Defense Minister: “No way”
Chairman of Yad Labanim (Israel’s representative organization that commemorates the fallen soldiers): “Let there be a uniform wording, an official message from the government, let there be no statements that denigrate the memory of the fallen.”
Defense Minister: “I cannot control the messages of elected officials.”
Altogether, not a good conversation, to use polite language. In the end, DM Gallant made a cogent argument defending his side: “The elected officials are elected by the people and are a symbol, each in their time and according to their role. I believe that they should be present in the military cemeteries on this holy day. The demand to remove elected officials from the cemeteries is tantamount to a demand to take down the Israeli flag. We as a society must not lose one of our main social assets, which constitutes a bridge of unity – the IDF and the security organizations in general and the bereaved family in particular.”
Good luck with that. As things stand, the nation is not ready to hear subtleties. With all its grotesque, Soviet-style precautions, Minister Miri Regev’s plan may be more in tune with the zeitgeist: protesters bad, torch lighting ceremony good, make big fence. Not pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but, hopefully, effective.