Israel’s Parliament to Mark Six-Day War by Praising the Settlements

Opposition legislators are furious over the Yesha Council of settlers’ big role in planning the day

Speaker Yuli Edelstein at the Knesset in 2016.
Itzik Harari / Knesset

Opposition lawmakers have harshly criticized the Knesset’s plans to mark the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War under the slogan “the renewal of settlement in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley,” saying the legislature was ignoring Israel’s military rule and the plight of the Palestinians in the West Bank.

The Yesha Council of settlers, meanwhile, is helping arrange Knesset committee meetings for the day and has received the authority to approve the guest list at the main ceremony.

The ceremony is expected to include speeches by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Yesha chief Avi Roeh. Four Knesset committees will meet to discuss the settlements’ achievements.

Knesset employees were surprised to learn that to take part in the main ceremony they had to register at Yesha’s offices instead of at the Knesset. The Knesset spokesman’s office said this merely made registering easier since so many people would be coming from the settlements.

Members of the opposition have criticized Edelstein, whom they said was glossing over the negative aspects of Israeli rule in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

For Tuesday’s events, MK Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) sought a more neutral title: “Fifty years to 1967.” This way, she said, MKs who wanted to discuss military rule in the West Bank would be able to do so, but her proposal was rejected.

“Her initiative for holding a special day came after the agenda had been set,” Knesset spokesman Yotam Yakir said. “It was agreed that at the plenary session she would be the first MK to submit a motion.”

Moshe Milner / GPO

The Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs will mark Tuesday under the slogan “the settlements in Judea and Samaria are the flagship of immigrant absorption and their incorporation into the community.” The Education, Sports and Culture Committee will hold a session called “the settlements as a lodestone in education,” and the Interior and Environment Committee will discuss Yesha’s plans for developing settlements.

The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, meanwhile, will hear lectures by former Yesha leader Pinhas Wallerstein and former MK and Golan Heights settler leader Yehuda Harel, who will discuss the settlement of these areas following the Six-Day War. Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz will talk about the “Jewish people’s connection to the Old City and the Wall following the war.”

The invitation of Rabinowitz irked some Knesset members. One MK who requested anonymity said this was a strange choice by a committee that instead of doing its job was inviting someone to lecture on Judaism and the Jewish connection to the holy places. “What does that have to do with foreign affairs or security?” the MK said.

But Yakir said it would have been strange if the Knesset had done otherwise .

“This is what Speaker Edelstein, who sponsored the ceremony, believes. To remove any doubts, this day has no political bias and any MK can express himself any way he sees fit,” Yakir said. “The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee will hold a festive session on the war that will also discuss the liberation of the Wall. That’s why the rabbi was invited.”

Meretz MKs and the Joint List of Arab parties have complained that the Knesset Presidium did not let them file a motion on Jerusalem Day, which celebrates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the war. The Knesset said the two parties had simply filed their requests too late.

“They don’t want to hear from the left on this day,” said MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz). “They don’t want us to talk about the state of Jerusalem’s 350,000 residents, or about the wall that divides the city, or about the vital need to reach a diplomatic solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.