Rivlin: Attacks will not frighten me

Israeli President on preparations to form the next government: 'Ours is a system that allows different voices, sanctifies different views.'

Arutz Sheva Staff,

Reuven Rivlin
Reuven Rivlin
Kobi Gideon/GPO

President Reuven Rivlin spoke Thursday at a conference attended by 600 students from 120 pre-military academies and national service volunteers at a conference organized by the Israel Democracy Institute. The conference looks at the public agenda ahead of the elections, and will include discussion groups and interviews with candidates for the 21st Knesset.

“In less than a month, we will take part – and for many of you for the first time – in a real celebration. The celebration of democratic elections,” the president said to the students. “It allows every citizen of Israel to have a direct say in our political leadership, in how we live our lives here, and to be a real part of civic democracy. I have experienced election campaigns as a citizen and as an elected official. I valued the times when I met citizens who were full of love and concern for this country, its people, its successes and its challenges. Citizens who wanted to take part, to talk about what matters to them and to influence, so that our lives here will be better,” Rivlin said.

“The elections are an opportunity to discuss, to listen and to decide,” said the president. “It is true that the elections bring to the surface issues that force us to face the most difficult challenges. To hear views that are sometimes not pleasant to hear or to say, all those points of disagreement around which our democratic system is formed. But these are important discussions because they are what allow us to have democracy at the basis of our existence. Ours is a system that allows different voices, sanctifies different views and respects every man and woman, whoever they are, despite the fact and because their views are different to mine."

“This current election campaign, like many of its predecessors, brings up important questions that are at the heart of the existence of the State of Israel for public discussion,” said the president. “They are issues that touch raw nerves of the various groups and tribes that live here. These issues spark important and passionate debate, and to a certain extent they touch one of the biggest and most important challenges that we face as a society today – are there still common values that are shared by all Israeli citizens, and what are they? Since the discussion touches on our identity, our dearest possession, our national and personal dreams, the disagreement about these shared values sometimes makes us – as individuals and as a society – lose empathy and the ability to hear other views. We must pay attention not only to the values and positions we want to advance, but also the way we put them forward. We must allow pointed and meaningful debate, but of a kind that includes attentiveness and mutual respect."

The president continued, “I encourage us all get out of our social networks, and speak to people who are different from us – to persuade, to argue, to get to know, to anger. Unfortunately, instead of giving us windows to new worlds, social networks give us only mirrors. Everyone looks at their feed and is sure that they are absolutely right. Get off the screens and talk, with family and friends. Only by talking and creating real conversation will we be able to ensure that the elections are truly democratic, that give space all to groups in Israel – religious, secular and haredi, Arab and Jewish."

“In these elections there is absolutely unacceptable discourse against Arab citizens of Israel,” stressed the president. “This ranting is a threat to Israeli society and is a threat to the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Here in this country, in this place, we are all equal. There are no first-class citizens and there are no second-class voters. All of us, even during election campaigns, must stand firm against this dangerous trend and say it out loud. Sometimes, silence is the same as agreement.”

“When you are there, in the voting booth, remember: carrying out your democratic obligation is a tremendous privilege. Take your time to listen and to consider the lists, not just those heading them. As questions of all sides, insist on answers when you need to and listen when you get them.” In conclusion, the president made two comments. “Firstly, remember that your role as citizens in a democratic state does not end with casting your vote. We have the duty and the privilege of continuing to be involved in what happens, to make sure that our representatives continue to work hard and to ensure that the discourse in Israeli society continues to represent every voice fully. Secondly, and finally, there has been discussion about my personal views recently – to whom and why I will give the job of forming the government. Israeli presidents live among the people and I, like my predecessors, regard the elections and the voice of the people with reverence. For me, the voice of the people is the voice of the sovereign citizens of Israel. I will not be tempted by blandishments. Attacks of one kind or another will not intimidate me. I will faithfully carry out the letter and the spirit of the law as I did in the previous elections and as my predecessors, the previous Presidents of the State of Israel, did.”