The Knesset held a special plenary session on Wednesday to honor the memory of Israel`s fifth president Yitzhak Navon. The session was held in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin, former President Shimon Peres and members of the Navon family.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned that Navon was the first president to be born in Israel. ”He was connected to Jerusalem and to Sephardic Jewry with all his soul,” he said, adding that while Navon wanted to achieve peace with the Arab countries, ”he was aware of the State of Israel`s security challenges.”
”He had two conditions for obtaining the desired peace – that our neighbors would be conscious of the fact that they cannot destroy us, and that we would exact a heavy price from them if they chose to attack us. The other condition was a radical positive change in the regimes of our neighboring countries, and this is in fact what happened in Egypt,” Netanyahu told the Plenum.
As president, the PM continued, ”Navon worked to unify the nation and came out strongly against extremism, discrimination and racism. We should remember this particularly in these times, as we are trying to root out this phenomenon.”
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said ”in these times of a deepening social rift within us, Yitzhak Navon is a role model for all those who are guided by love for the land and the values of Judaism and Israeli democracy.”
”The roots of the violent, nationalistic, inciting, silencing and victim-claiming Israeli political climate can be found in those years, when Navon served as president. I am determining, with sorrow, that as a society, we have not drawn the necessary conclusions. For too many years, too many people have turned a blind eye and sanctioned, with their silence and winking, the creation of a devastating force in Israeli society; a force which these days is terrorizing the tenth President of the State of Israel, Reuven Rivlin; which is challenging the judicial system, the rule of law, the Shin Bet (General Security Service), Zionism, Jewish values and our democratic foundation,” Herzog stated.
”This is a force that would not have thought twice before calling Yitzhak Navon, the fifth president of the State of Israel, a `traitor`, `the president of Hezbollah` and `Nazi`. I call on all the members of this House, despite the deep disputes, to stand united at the front of the fight for Israel`s character; to stand as one body and fight Jewish terror with the same force and resolve that are used to fight Palestinian terror; to block with the same resolve all those who seek to destroy us from the outside and all those who seek to [destroy our home] from within. This is not a partisan, religious or ethnic battle. It is a battle for the character of the sane Israeli society. This is Yitzhak Navon`s legacy,” he added.
Knesset Speaker Yuli-Yoel Edelstein opened the session by saying that ”with his unique personality and diverse talents, Navon left a significant mark on our public sphere, on our political arena, as well as on the legacy of the Ladino language and the legacy of Sephardic Judaism.” Edelstein noted that Navon was a member of six Knessets and three governments.
MK Yair Lapid said ”Navon was an Israeli who did not feel any need to hate Arabs in order to emphasize [the fact that he was Israeli]. His bachelor`s degree was in Arab Literature, and his master`s was in Islamic Culture, and no one thought that disqualified him from being the president of the State of Israel, because part of the president`s job is to be the president of the 1.2 million Arab citizens in the country, promote coexistence and come out against phenomena of hatred towards the minority.”
Navon, added Lapid, ”was a Jew who did not feel the need to criticize other people`s Judaism. He did not examine the size of the other`s kippah, the length of his Payot (sidecurls), the modesty of his wife and daughters or the devotion in his prayer. He did not believe that was any of his business. His Judaism was a tradition of love for mankind, tolerance and connecting the past, present and future.”