President Reuven Rivlin on Monday used a forum marking the 40th anniversary of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty to slam the conversation surrounding Israeli-Arab citizens that was sparked Sunday after comments by an Israeli actress.
Rivlin criticized what he said was a “completely unacceptable conversation regarding Israeli-Arab citizens” taking place during the “dizzying” election campaign.
“I refuse to believe that there are parties that have given up on the idea that Israel is a Jewish democratic state, a democratic and Jewish state in the same phrase,” said the president, speaking at the Hebrew University’s Harry S. Truman Institute.
Rivlin said those who believe in the obligation of the state to be both Jewish and democratic in the full sense of the word need to remember that there are full legal rights for all citizens.
“There is not, and will not be, second-class citizens or second-class voters,” he said. “At the polls, all of us will all be equal, all of us Jews and Arabs, all citizens of Israel.”
While Rivlin did not mention Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by name, the prime minister’s statements on Sunday about the status of Israeli-Arab citizens reverberated widely.
On Sunday, Netanyahu posted on Facebook a response to Israeli actress Rotem Sela, who wrote on Instagram that Israel is a country of all its citizens, and that Israeli-Arab voters deserve to be treated and discussed with respect.
The prime minister issued a “correction” to Sela, telling her that Israel is “not a country of all its citizens” now that the Nation-State Law has passed. Netanyahu said Arabs have full equal rights in Israel, but that the country remains only “the nation-state of the Jewish nation.”
As the controversy raged late Sunday, two of Sela’s famous supermodel friends – who are both currently in Los Angeles – weighed in.
Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot posted her own Instagram story Sunday, offering her support for Sela.
“Love thy neighbor as thyself,” Gadot wrote in Hebrew, on top of a screenshot of Sela’s original post. “It’s not an issue of Right or Left, Jew or Arab, secular or religious. It’s an issue of dialogue,” she said. “Of dialogue for peace, for equality, for tolerance between one another.” Gadot added that the “responsibility to grow hope and light for a better future for our children is on us. Rotem, my sister, you are an inspiration for us all.”
Gadot’s husband, Jaron Varsano, also praised Sela, writing on his Instagram story: “It’s either a Halachic state or it’s sanity. Respect to Rotem Sela.”
Israeli supermodel Shlomit Malka also weighed in via social media.
“How can it be that in 2019 in a democratic nation people should fear speaking their minds?” she wrote. “Who more than us should understand the significance of racism and baseless hatred?” Malka asked why those who are so afraid of dividing the Jewish people, “are separating themselves from anyone with a different opinion.”
Malka told her friend Sela that it’s “sad that voicing your opinion today is considered a brave act. Thank you for your openness and honesty; you’re helping all of us develop and progress toward an enlightened and equal discussion.”
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