Israel's official ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War will take place in the settlement of Gush Etzion in the West Bank, Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Culture Minister Miri Regev announced on Wednesday, drawing sharp criticism from the opposition.
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The ceremony will begin on the anniversary of the return to Kfar Etzion, a kibbutz that was destroyed during the War of Independence and re-established after the 1967 conflict.
The two ministries will spend a total of 10 million shekels ($2.74 million) on events marking the anniversary of what Bennett and Regev called, “Israel’s glorious victory in the Six Day War and the liberation of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank], the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley,” that, according to Bennett, should be celebrated with “the respect it deserves.”
“A nation that is concerned for its future must always look back at its past and know how to continue its dynasty,” Bennett said.
Brushing off the disputed nature of the West Bank, Regev said, “Regardless of the conflict over these parts of the country, every Israeli should know and cherish these places as the cradle of the Jewish people and its culture.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supports the ministers’ plans.
The opposition, however, voiced sharp criticism in response to the initiative. Meretz chairman Zehava Galon told Haaretz that no matter what the two ministers decide or say, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank remains a harsh reality that millions of Palestinians face on a daily basis.
“Israel has controlled millions of people for 50 years, treads on them every day anew and denies them rights and sovereignty. Bennett and Regev want us to continue living with this reality alongside us without considering the heavy price it extracts from us,” Galon said.
Dov Khenin (Joint Arab List) said that the decision shows the ministers view the West Bank as their private property, instead of occupied territory, and accused them of spreading their political messages on the Israeli tax payer’s dime. “There’s no limit to the scandals,” he said.