The prime minister declared that the Knesset, the supreme institution of Israeli democracy, and the entire Israeli democratic system will defend themselves against those who rise to harm them, and the Knesset’s decisions will be fully implemented.
Members of Knesset,
Today, following a few days of welcome rains, we celebrate Tu Bishvat on a bright and sunny day. Thus, the children of Israel, who will today plant trees all over the country, will be able to behold the whiteness of the almond tree blossoms, to smell the perfume of the carpets of narcissuses and the blooming anemones which decorate our country’s fields, and breathe in the rich fragrance of the nature which surrounds us. I am certain that, like myself, many Members of Knesset would prefer to spend this day with them [the children of Israel]. Looking at the plenum, I see that quite a few did that.
It is not coincidental that, of all days, the Knesset was established on Tu Bishvat. The mitzvahs related to all other Jewish holidays can be practiced on foreign soil. However, the halachic agricultural meaning of Tu Bishvat can only be realized in the Land of Israel, for this holiday — the very cause of its existence — is related to the Land, its nature, and its landscapes.
This also applies to the Knesset: The most significant embodiment of the renewal of Israeli statehood can only be materialized on the soil of the Land — the Land of Israel — and in that Land of Israel, it can only reside here in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the People of Israel.
The Knesset’s legislative work during these 56 years is an enormous enterprise, which has made the most important contribution to the building of Israel as we know it today: a law-abiding state which is advanced, enlightened, open, democratic, and egalitarian; a state whose legal system is attuned to the changing times, and is adapted to the changing needs of society.
And still, with all the great achievements of the Knesset in the field of legislation, there are many among us who believe that the Knesset sinned in not implementing its first task, which is drafting a constitution for Israel.
I do not believe so. There were two options which members of the first few Knessets faced. One was to draft a proper constitution and impose it on an Israeli society which is still in the making, and must learn again, after 2,000 years of exile, the ways of statehood and independence. The other was to draft a constitution as a puzzle, piece after piece, while attentively and patiently considering the needs of society in all its many and various sectors.
In every proper state, a constitution that expresses its society’s identity card is a necessity. This also applies to us. And still, I believe that greater and more important than this need is the need in a society which is comprised of so many diversities and sectors — not to say factions, such as Israeli society — to draft a constitution which stems from agreement.
Only this will ensure that the identity card that will be received eventually will indeed be the identity card of all of us, and agreed upon by all of us.
I told you I recognize the need for a constitution. I believe that a constitution can only be achieved by agreement, and even if we do not succeed in drafting the constitution exactly as we wish, it is perhaps better to have a constitution with a few defects, but which was achieved by agreement and not by coercion.
This House symbolizes the sovereignty of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and the freedom of our citizens in a democratic regime. It is not a meaningless symbol, but a body that shoulders the most important national mission. The task of the Knesset — to which the people gave its trust and entrusted with its fate — is to lead it and guide it toward its future. The Knesset was not elected to serve as a club for fruitless discussions, but to make courageous decisions, while envisioning the larger national interests.
It is not easy to make fateful decisions, but this is the task of national leadership. It is not easy to do so when difficult, heart-rending decisions are required, but this is the critical hour for the people’s representatives, because not to make a decision or to try transferring responsibility to others only because it is difficult is to evade responsibility and betray the mission.
A democratic regime is only truly democratic when the minority knows that its rights are upheld and not questioned. However, a democratic regime is also truly democratic only when the minority knows that it must accept and abide by the decisions of the majority, even when it disagrees with them.
Regrettably, during the past year, voices were raised from among us threatening the integrity of Israeli democracy and explicitly declaring the unwillingness of various bodies to accept democratic decisions made by the Knesset in accordance with the law.
The Knesset, the supreme institution of Israeli democracy, and the entire Israeli democratic system will defend themselves against those who rise to harm them, and the Knesset’s decisions will be fully implemented.
Thank you very much.