President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras will light a torch as part of Israel's annual Independence Day ceremony on April 18, MK Miri Regev confirmed Thursday.
This is the first time that a foreign leader will light one of the ceremony's twelve torches. Every year, prominent Israelis, Diaspora Jews and others are honored as torch-lighters at the Mount Herzl ceremony.
Hernández will light the torch along with Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hernández graduated from a MASHAV enrichment course in 1992, and is the first MASHAV graduate to be be elected head of a foreign country.
"Bienvenidos presidente Hernández!" said Minister of Culture and Sport Regev, who serves as chairperson of the Ministerial Committee for Ceremonies and Symbols responsible for the ceremony. "I am happy and proud that President Hernández... will attend."
Tamar Zandberg, the recently elected head of the left-wing Meretz party, called on Regev to cancel Hernández's invitation in a letter sent Friday. "This scandalous decision gives legitimacy to a president who is responsible for grave violations of human rights in his country, only for the purpose of justifying Netanyahu's participation [in the ceremony]."
Regev and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein have feuded in recent weeks over Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to address the ceremony, an honor usually reserved for the Knesset Speaker alone.