During a tour of the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin sought on Sunday to convey a conciliatory message less than one month after far-rightists staged a demonstration in the city.
"I cannot obligate a non-Jewish person to sing 'As long as deep in the heart the soul of a Jew yearns,' but agitating against the state of Israel is verboten," said Rivlin, who chose to make his first trip since being elected Knesset speaker to Umm al-Fahm.
In contrast to statements uttered by the current foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who had advocated handing over heavily populated Arab areas in Israel proper to the Palestinians in a population swap, Rivlin made clear his position that the town is an inseparable part of the state of Israel.
"There are those who say that we need to transfer Umm el-Fahm [to Palestinian control]," Rivlin said. "This is a city in Israel, was [a city], is, and will be forever." The Knesset speaker said his visit was in no way related to last month's contentious march staged by prominent rightists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Baruch Marzel.
"I do not come in the wake of, instead of, nor against," Rivlin said. "Umm al-Fahm is a city in Israel and it would behoove us not to say that we have been sentenced to live with one another and that the sentence needs to be cancelled. We were destined to live together and the bridge that bonds us is a necessary condition for peace in the area."
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