Meet the president

June 26, 2014 by Henry Benjamin
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Israel’s president-elect Reuven Rivlin spoke to international journalists in Jerusalem yesterday. J-Wire was there….

The seventh generation Jerusalemite  spoke of the challenges that Israel is currently facing saying that he had just visited the Galil home of Mohammed Karaka, the 14-year-old boy killed on Sunday when the vehicle he was travelling in was hit by a missile launched from Syria…the first Israeli citizen to be killed in the current Syrian conflict.


President-elect Reuven Rivlin          Photo: Henry Benjamin

President-elect Reuven Rivlin Photo: Henry Benjamin

He added: “Last week, I visited the Mekor Hayim Yeshiva where the three young boys Eyal, Gilad and Naftali studied.It is a route that may seem impossible to an outside observer… travelling from Jewish to Arab citizens living together in this country. We all share the same fate, the same pain and the same problem.”

Rivlin touched on the appeal by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to the kidnappers demanding the immediate release of the boys. He said: “I see his appeal as an opportunity to restore trust between Israel and the Palestinian authority..if it could ever happen. These words could create trust between our two peoples.” He said that within 24 hours Abbas’s prime minister denied that the boys had been kidnapped. But Rivlin said that he believed Abbas meant what he said. “Building trust between the two peoples not merely between the leaders is essential If we are to put to an end the tragedy that is the Israeli-Palestinan conflict, such trust requires constant communication. The mutual understanding in order to breach the gap which has existed for decades, more than 150 years, seems unbreathable. The residents of the Middle East, both Arabs and Jews, must realise that our co-existence is not a cruel fate but rather our destiny.

That we were not doomed to live together but designed to live together rather is our mutual destiny and we can’t live without the belief that we can get to a sort of understanding.”

Rivlin said that whether it not this happened, “we share the same geographic region and we breathe the same air and drink the same water.”

President-elect Reuven Rivlin

President-elect Reuven Rivlin     Photo: Henry Benjamin

The president-elect said that following the announcement that he would become Israel’s 10th president, he received congratulations from President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen. Rivlin said: “We were both in the same country. I have met with President Abbas on several occasions. I know we will meet again in spite of a lot of differences of opinion, in spite of the gap between us that is impossible to understand how it can be breached. It is our duty to find a way to at least understand the position of the other side. We both understand that direct communication is the key to make peace inevitable…a place that has a future as well as a past.”

He said that the State of Israel is not merely a Zionist or an Israeli undertaking adding “it is also the State of all Jewish people around the world. As president-elect, my door will be open to all”.

Outlining his personal policy as president, Rivlin saying that those who know him and his stance on democracy are aware that he would never silence opinions that differed to his own.

He emphasised: “I will never reject someone because of their view, and I will fight for their right to express it. He said the presidential home will be open to anyone “who wishes to engage in a dialogue with me, be they Jewish of one religious movement or another, Arab, residents of Israel or abroad, rich or poor, newcomers or veterans”.

He admitted that Israel had problems with its economy mentioning the widening gap between rich and poor. He said that it is a strategic need for Israel to make sure that this gap would cease to be a problem. He spoke of the problems between cultures and Church and State. He said that both Arabs and the orthodox Jews represent more than 20% of Israel’s population and “are no longer minorities”.

He said that every Jew has three cities. “The one he was born in, the one in which he lives…and Jerusalem.”

He praised the press for its work. “Without the freedom of speech without the freedom of writing even criticising us sometimes very hardly, we could not run as a democracy.

President-elect Rivlin finished by saying: “I am proud to become within a few weeks the president of a Jewish democratic State when we can say in one breath Jewish and democratic and there is no gap between a Jewish State and democratic one.”

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