President Rivlin: I have no doubt that Israel’s democracy is capable of meeting the challenges which lie before it. And it will continue to do so, passionately and bravely, in its Jewish and democratic way
Copyright: GPO/Mark Neiman
(Communicated by the President’s Media Advisor)
"I want to open with a sad note following the events yesterday, leading to the death of Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ein. Loss of life always brings pain. The State of Israel is committed to carry out a careful examination into the events, which led up to Abu Ein’s death. Israel will act according to the rule of law. At this difficult time, both sides have the duty to be responsible and encourage calm.
Friends. I have heard and read, so much in the last weeks and months about ‘the health of Israel’s democracy’. In Israel and abroad, many questions have been asked, many concerns have been raised, and even accusations have been made. They say that, Israel’s democracy is "under pressure", that Israel’s democracy ‘is fading’.
It is true that we had a very difficult year in Israel. We have fought a painful battle against Hamas in Gaza. We have seen an increase in terror attacks, across the country. We have seen a serious increase in tensions between Jews and Arabs. Just across our borders, there is yet more instability and war, more bloodshed and hatred. Further abroad, Israelis and Jews are being targeted by boycotts, and anti-Semitism.
Indeed, it has been a difficult and painful time. Israel is now facing serious challenges: social challenges, political challenges, and security challenges. However, as one who has lived here all his life, let me reassure you: the State of Israel, has dealt with difficulties in the past, and has overcome them. In its short history, Israel’s democracy has stood firm in the face of so many challenges. It survived the removal of thousands of Jews from their homes in Gaza; it survived wave after wave of brutal terror attacks against its people; six wars; major military campaigns; tens of thousands of fallen soldiers and civilians; it survived the assassination of a Prime Minister.
My friends, I am not here to give you a lesson in Israeli history. Sometimes, my statements do not serve Israel’s public diplomacy abroad, (what is known as, ‘Hasbara’), since I prefer to say exactly what I believe in. Israel is a proud democratic and Jewish state, Jewish and democratic. This is our DNA.
Don’t be fooled. While at times it may seem, there are no red lines in the political debate in Israel, our history has proven, again and again, that Israel’s democracy itself has clear red lines and boundaries. (As made clear by our legislation and legal systems). 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.
And I want to tell you something else. Despite recent attempts, to suggest that the Jewish character of the state threatens its democratic nature. In reality, the opposite is true. Our commitment to our democratic values is born directly out of our Jewish values. Israel’s Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty is no less Jewish, than it is democratic.
Indeed, it is rooted in the words of the great Rabbi Akiva, ‘Beloved is man, created in the image of God.’ The very same teachings used as the basis for the universal declaration, on human rights.
As a man who speaks his mind, I will tell you honestly. I have full confidence in Israel’s democracy, but at the same time, there are things that concern me.
I am concerned by the violence that has raised its ugly head, in our society. I am concerned by the public and political atmosphere which brought us the Jewish Nation State bill. (A bill which is at best unnecessary, as I have clearly stated.) I am concerned about the low point in relations between Arabs and Jews.
I am very worried, that Israel’s Arab leaders have not clearly condemned the incitement, and murder of their fellow Israelis. That some within the Arab Israeli population, support the worst of our enemies, and seek to attack the very state in which they live.
I am also troubled, that Israel is not determined enough to address the significant economic and social gaps which lie between the Arabs and Jews of this country. The truth is we have not done enough to build bridges or trust between the peoples of this country. This task stands before us.
Dear friends. Despite all the challenges we face, despite the problems I have mentioned, at the end of the day, we must remember that, the intensity of the democratic debate in Israel is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It is a sign of a society brave enough to deal with the most fundamental dilemmas, concerning its identity and values. I have no doubt in my heart that Israel’s democracy is capable of meeting the challenges which lie before it. And it will continue to do so, passionately and bravely, in its Jewish and democratic way."