Culture Minister Miri Regev leveled a withering attack on President Reuven (Ruby) Rivlin Tuesday, saying Rivlin’s speech during the opening of the Knesset’s winter session Monday was the “most un-statesmanlike” address by a president in Israeli history.
“Rivlin spat in the face of the will of the people, he spat in the face of democracy and of the politicians who elected him president. He was the the most un-statesmanlike president that Israel has ever had,” Regev steamed in a Facebook video.
Other Likud MKs, however, defended the president, implicitly criticizing Regev and repeating the president’s warning that illiberal trends and legislation emanating from the government are having a damaging affect on Israeli democracy and civil discourse.
“I certainly feel that the president put his finger on several social trends that are very worrying,” MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “He spoke about the need to conduct our public discourse in an atmosphere of balance and limits between the three branches of government: the legislature, the executive and judiciary, and that none of the three should try to trample another one.”
Glick said he “strongly disagreed” with Regev’s missive against the president and said that Rivlin’s speech stood in sharp contrast to the “debased” level of dialogue in the Knesset, exemplified by the near free-for-all that broke out during the ceremonial opening of parliament. The spectacle moved Glick to leave the plenum, but not before Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein had to remove two Zionist Camp MKs who had repeatedly shouted down Netanyahu’s speech.
“Hilik Bar and Michal Biran got thrown out of the room about the same time,” Glick said. “But on their way out of the plenum Biran shouted out to Hilik ‘I’m insulted you’re first (to be thrown out). I wanted to be first.’
“So they were putting on a play, they wanted to make headlines. But they didn’t consider (the Knesset session to be) serious business, and they don’t respect the Knesset. I was disgusted by the whole performance,” he added.
Asked whether the presence of multiple convicted criminals, both in the Knesset and around the government table, contributes to a lack of respect for state institutions, Glick said only that the symbols of the State of Israel – Knesset, army, Supreme Court, police – deserve respect, regardless of the individuals manning any specific position.
Despite his criticism of the tone and style of Knesset and public discourse, Glick also said there is a large degree of truth to many of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s criticisms. He defended the right of opposition parties to criticize the prime minister, but also said that for years Netanyahu’s opponents have nurtured an atmosphere that looks at Israel as a terrible place, even when the country really is doing well. Glick rejected the notion of a “witch hunt” against Netanyahu and the right, but also said there is a long history of media obsession with Netanyahu’s alleged crimes and shortcomings.
“Anyone who lives here knows there is obsessive criticism of Netanyahu, way beyond what he deserves. But his response to the media, to the police is overdoing it. He should be the one leading the push to respect all of our democratic institutions,” said Glick.