President Reuven Rivlin.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Though deeply concerned by the violence that has erupted in Israeli society, and equally concerned by the public and political atmosphere that ushered in the Jewish Nation State bill, which he believes “is at best unnecessary,” President Reuven Rivlin maintains an unshakable faith in Israel’s democracy.
He will not allow any of the current disturbances, including his concern about the low point in relations between Arabs and Jews, to sway him from his conviction that Israel is a Jewish and a democratic state and a democratic and Jewish state – and that there is no gap between the two.
These were not the only worries that Rivlin voiced on Thursday at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference. He was also very worried, he said, that Israel’s Arab leaders have not clearly condemned the incitement, and the murder of their fellow Israelis, and that some within the Arab-Israeli population support the worst of Israel’s enemies, and seek to attack the state in which they live.
It troubles him that Israel is not sufficiently determined to address the economic and social gaps that lie between its Arab and Jewish populations, and that not enough has been done to build bridges or trust between Israel’s population sectors. “This task stands before us,” he said.
US Ambassador Dan Shapiro said that Rivlin was now six months into his presidency and that he had heard him speak on unity, democracy, fairness and peace, and what had impressed him most was what Rivlin had said to children from the arson-attacked Jewish-Arab Hand in Hand school: “You are living proof that we can live together in harmony and peace.”
The US Embassy is a supporter of the school, said Shapiro, who noted that throughout his tenure to date Rivlin has reached out across the divide.
“On behalf of the American people I salute President Rivlin,” said Shapiro, who ignored a shout from the audience of “What about Pollard?” When Rivlin himself mounted the stage, he admitted that sometimes his statements do not serve Israel’s public diplomacy efforts, but that he prefers to say exactly what he believes in, which is that “Israel is a proud democratic and Jewish state, Jewish and democratic. This is our DNA.”
Rivlin said that while it may sometimes seem there are no redlines in the political debate in Israel, history has proven, again and again, that Israel’s democracy has clear redlines and boundaries, something made clear in legislation and the legal system. “These moral boundaries express Israel’s absolute commitment, to defend the rights of all its citizens, the rights of its minorities, Arabs and Jews as one,” he said.
“Our commitment to our democratic values is born directly out of our Jewish values. Israel’s Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty is no less Jewish than it is democratic,” he said.