President Rivlin
President Rivlin Flash 90

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (Likud) urged Israel's leaders to maintain a baseline of respect and national unity on Monday, during the opening session of the Knesset. 

"We meet here today, after a hard, painful and bloody summer," Rivlin began. "In this long summer, we knew unity, standing against an external enemy."

"But, this summer we dedicated quite a bit of time, unfortunately, to highlighting the differences, the enemies [we make] at home," he continued.

Rivlin referred to criticism directed at him for being in contact with the Israeli Arab community, noting that he has been called a number of names and smears - especially in light of his decision to speak at a memorial event Sunday for the 1956 Kafr Kassem massacre

''These words are just some of the mudslinging thrown at me in the wake of what I have said and events that I attended," he fired. "And all the people, and all elected officials, see and hear these remarks. I must say, I was horrified by the severe bullying that has contaminated the discussion."

''But, Ladies and Gentlemen, I did not come here to talk about myself," he continued. "I'm not the only one, I'm not alone. Certainly anyone who sits here, right and left, like many others in Israel, hareidi and secular, right-wing and left wing, has been used as a target for these venomous poison arrows, these toxic words, seeking to stifle debate, to paralyze the speaker." 

In this matter, all of us, he said, are "one nation. We are all equal in the face of violence. And that violence does not stop, unfortunately, on social networks, as it is not directed only to the public. It is within us, it is in the streets, it is in demonstrations, and schools. "

Rivlin went on to say, "It's hard to not feel that we are losing the ability to talk to each other. We lose not only the ability to talk to each other with respect, but also the words and values ​​that we have as a common language." 

''I ask myself, and you, the MKs and elected officials: how did we get to the point where simple observations about life here, with differing opinions on the values we shared not so long ago, garner such [extreme] reactions? How can it be an expression of our core values ​​here, as a Jewish and democratic state, a democratic and Jewish state, are perceived by some to be courageous and to others as a betrayal?" 

''I ask you, honestly, how can it be that these acts are heroic on the one hand, and a betrayal on another?" he continued. "Is there anyone here who thinks that burning down a mosque is not a crime? Is there anyone here who thinks throwing rocks at the Jerusalem light rail, at Jewish vehicles is not a crime?"

Rivlin then derided what he sees as a profound sense of political apathy. 

“We cannot be silent. Our silence is dangerous. This institution has seen very difficult discussions, even screaming…. this is the way of politics,” he said.

But at this point, it is the silence “which echoes the loudest,” he concluded.