President Rivlin Warns on Independence Day: 'Polarization Could Deal Us a Harsh Blow'

Rivlin's comment comes after the Knesset speaker asserted that, 'out of an excess of hatred, we forgot how to love'

President Reuven Rivlin delivers a speech in Jerusalem on April 30, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

The internal rifts in Israeli society could do severe harm to the country, President Reuven Rivlin warned on Tuesday, a day after the Knesset speaker said that factionalism could cause destruction.

“Disputes are permissible, but polarization could deal us a harsh blow,” Rivlin said Tuesday at the annual Independence Day ceremony at the President’s Residence.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein had sounded a similar theme Monday evening, when he gave the opening address at the Independence Day torch-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is the source of this people’s spirit and strength, and therefore, today too we must preserve Jerusalem’s unity,” Edelstein said, referring to the ceremony’s theme: the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification. “But no less, we must preserve Israel’s unity.

“Not everything in our lives is right or left. The entire right isn’t a fascist right, and the entire left isn’t a traitorous left. If we continue in this unacceptable fashion, we’ll lead to factionalism and bring destruction down upon ourselves,” Edelstein added.

“There was a great deal of unnecessary tension and hatred among us over the past year. Instead of talking with each other, we shouted at each other. Instead of checking into things, we rushed to accuse. Out of an excess of hatred, we forgot how to love.”

During Tuesday’s ceremony, awards were given to 121 outstanding soldiers – 71 men and 50 women. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot were also present.

Rivlin said that “many people around the world see Israel today as a regional power, but there are still many countries that are unwilling to recognize not only Israel’s independence but its very existence – and not just as a Jewish state, but as a state at all.”

Nevertheless, he added, “What experts couldn’t imagine, the Zionist dream managed to accomplish. We did it, and we’re doing it, hour by hour.”

Lieberman, in response to a question about what Jerusalem meant to him, responded, “It’s a dream, it’s a hope, it’s a searing truth.” When he was a child, he said, his parents listened every morning to Israel Radio’s Russian-language broadcast, which opens with the words, “This is the Voice of Israel from Jerusalem.”

“At the age of 1 or 2, I couldn’t yet understand what that was exactly,” Lieberman noted. “But I understood that truth came from there, that the dream and the hope were there.”

Eisenkot said the past year had been marked by “security challenges on every front,” but “by acting firmly and responsibly, we provided both security and a feeling of security.”