Close this search box.

President Rivlin’s Address at Opening of Knesset Winter Session

riv2Following is President Reuven Rivlin’s address given to the opening of the Knesset winter session on Monday afternoon 29 Tishrei .

“Sadly, at this very moment, we are face a struggle against bloodthirsty Islamic terrorism. I want to begin by sending my wishes for a speedy and full recovery to the injured, and express my support for the security services – their fight, is all of our fight.

We have gathered here today to commence the second session of the twentieth Knesset. We gather here on this celebratory occasion, but our hearts cannot celebrate. They are heavy and pained. Na’ama Henkin, may she rest in peace, wrote the following chilling words twelve years before she and her husband were murdered by evil people: ‘The tomb is opened, the moment was prolonged, and dirt piled in. The Lord gave, and the Lord taketh away. The secret is to approach the edge of the abyss and look into the depth of the darkness. To overcome the dizziness, turn around, and carry on…’ she wrote. And indeed during this past summer we once again buried our beloved boys and girls. Once again we stood over freshly dug graves – dug for the burial of bright lives, young, promising people. This summer, and again during these holidays, we unfortunately felt the abyss once again. Once again we looked at the depth of the darkness. And now, even though we are still broken and sore, we know that we have to turn around. As Na’ama wrote, we must turn around and keep going forward. We have returned to our homeland, out of love, after thousands of years of wandering and suffering. We rose from the ashes, built the country, and we continue to build it, out of love and faith, and not out of hatred or retaliation. With love and faith.

This is our way, and this is the way we will continue. Murderous terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism want to weaken our hands at every moment. They want to slash our statehood with fear and terror. But they cannot beat us. We will defeat the terrorists, with their blood-soaked hands, we will fight terrorism with a heavy hand, and we will not take mercy on the cruel. Israel is a state with the rule of law, and this is the source of its strength and resilience. During these tense times we all have a responsibility to act for the sake of calm. We need to remember – and be reminded – that we have our soldiers, a police force and judicial system, and that the right and duty to bring to justice those responsible for these heinous crimes lies in their hands – and their hands only. Hence, I want to offer support to the security forces and IDF soldiers, who are acting at every moment to defend our lives. They enable us to raise our children safely, work and create, to continue the work of building our state. This is also the place to mention that these are the same security forces which we have criticized – sometimes offensively. Over the past year I met with many soldiers and commanders. It hurts me to hear the difficulties experienced by ‘career soldiers’, combat soldiers and other military personal. We cannot give backing to the public narrative that paints them as if they were ‘parasites’ or a ‘burden on the economy’. Members of the Finance Committee and members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense committee – we are facing another year in which the IDF is operating without a long term, multi-annual financial plan. If we do not allow for a long-term plan we won’t increase the efficiency. There is plenty to repair. Repair what requires repair as is needed. But stamp out the defamation; repel the dismissive discourse that harms the spirit of the IDF and its soldiers. I was embarrassed when a squadron commander, and intelligence and logistics officers, asked me ‘Why do we deserve such treatment?’ We must safeguard the dignity, and status of our soldiers and commanders, who are on guard day and night out of a sense of purpose and dedication.

Unfortunately, we live in a reality of bloody conflict. There is no definite timeline to the end to this conflict, to this tragedy. What is clear is that the responsibility for our lives here, our lives here together, Jews and Arabs, rests on all our shoulders. What is clear is that the infrastructure to any solution is establishing trust between the parties. Lately we have witnessed more and more attempts by political leaders, and others, to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious conflict. From such a conflict, there would be no return. A war of Armageddon, Jihad, or the end of days. The attempts to stoke the fire of conflict, by passionate fundamentalists is an attempt to set fire to this earth upon which we all sit. Anyone who does such a thing, has our blood – all of our blood – on their hands. It is enough to look around us at the slaughtered minorities in Syria and Iraq in order to understand the dark abyss into which a religious war could drag us all. The Jewish people and the State of Israel do not have, nor ever will have, a war with Islam. The horrible lie which depicts the State of Israel as seeking to change the status quo on the Temple Mount is not only a blatant falsehood, but also a dangerous plot that has cost innocent lives. The State of Israel and the Israeli government is determined to preserve and protect the status quo on the Temple Mount, in contrast to the wicked and deceitful campaign being run against us in Gaza, and Ramallah, and to our sorrow – also within the State of Israel. Israel is not trying to prevent Muslims from praying in their holy places, as Israel would never harm the mosques on the Temple Mount. And I believe that the disseminators of this lie know this fact well.

I grew up in Jerusalem in the days when we were barred by force from accessing the holy sites, despite the signed international agreement. And even further back, I can remember as a young child, how blowing the Shofar at the thin strip of the Western Wall at the conclusion of Yom Kippur was grounds for arrest by soldiers of the British Mandate. As victims ourselves to this kind of restricted freedom of worship in the city of Jerusalem, we would never act in such a way. Our commitment as Jews and sovereigns to maintain the status quo is not only born out of our commitment to the formal agreements, but stems from a deep understanding of the responsibilities of the sovereignty over Jerusalem and the responsibility for the safety and security of all its citizens. We have a responsibility to ensure the freedom of worship for all believers who look up to Jerusalem. Even given the difficult and painful limitation of our ability, as Jews to pray and I stress – pray – at a place so sacred to us. The State of Israel will not prohibit Jews from entering the Temple Mount and this does not constitute an infringement or a violation of the status-quo. The Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount is undeniable and cannot be distorted. Saying that the Jews’ feet soil the Temple Mount is an unacceptable statement, which we cannot tolerate. We should remember that so far, and throughout history, only when Jerusalem was under Israeli sovereignty could peace, quiet, and freedom for all its citizens exist. And so – this will remain the case.

My friends, Members of Knesset, public leaders – the attempt to play on our most primal fears, the attempt to ignite the messianic fundamentalist imagination, will not only cost lives, but deepen the grip of despair. And this despair my friends, is the most effective attempt to kill hope. Unleashing the specter of religious zeal, is to attempt to undermine any positive effort being made here to establish trust between Arabs and Jews. In the State of Israel, between the Jordan and the Sea. Specifically during these tense days, we must remember that building trust between Jews and Arabs within Israel and outside, it is not just an option – it is a necessity. Even if you shutter the window, the other side will not disappear. Even if you burn the bridge today, you will have to build it again tomorrow. The road is long and difficult, and in this mission there are no shortcuts. But make no mistake – this task is the task which lies before this generation, its leaders, and before future generations. Dear friends, who are sitting here today, who are the public’s emissaries and its leaders. Today perhaps more than ever we need leadership from both sides, which does not lose its voice. That can stand before its public. Leaders who do not lose their inner compass, even during a storm. We need leadership that does not act out of fear, and does not feed it. That is not restricted – but steers us. Leadership that increases the trust between the parties, not the enmity and estrangement between them. Such leadership that strives valiantly, day after day, to reach the horizon of cooperation. A leadership that continues to recruit forces from the main avenue of the two societies for this enormous task. I will continue to work, day and night, in an attempt to consolidate and develop the buds of trust between us. Primarily between Arabs and Jews within the State of Israel. And I am not alone. I’m standing beside a long line of mayors and heads of councils – leaders – Jews and Arabs from the periphery and the center, north and south, who choose each day to cooperate together. I stand by the CEOs of leading companies, executives in the economy and in the public sector – leaders – Jews and Arabs that realize that they share common interests. I stand by Amir Levy, Budget Director in the Ministry of Finance, who is leading courageously and with the full backing of the Minister of Finance, a comprehensive process in confidence building measures in cooperation with Arab mayors, in order to reduce the gaps between Arabs and Jews in Israel. I stand by educators, administrators, managers, and teachers – all leaders – religious and secular, Arabs and Jews, all over the country, who want to raise a different generation of children, who know each other and learn to respect each other. These people, these leaders, we are their servants: they give me hope and strength.

‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; May those who love her prosper; May there be peace within your walls; and security within your citadels; For the sake of my family and friends; I will say, Peace be within you.’ (Psalms 122:6-8). This is our commitment to ourselves – it is our commitment to our children and grandchildren and the responsibility that rests on all the inhabitants of this house, on all our shoulders.”

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)

Leave a Reply

Popular Posts