President Rivlin Says Attacks by the Israeli Right-wing Won't Intimidate Him

Israeli president says he will continue to speak up for Arab voters after criticism he suffered for protecting them following controversial comments by Netanyahu

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin
Kobi Gideon / GPO

President Reuven Rivlin said Thursday that he will not be deterred by "attacks like these and others," responding to recent and mount criticism from the Israeli right-wing. 

The Israeli president made his remark in the wake of reports that he may not give the task of forming a government to the candidate who enjoys the support of most party leaders, as is customary.

Haaretz Weekly Episode 18Haaretz

>> Arabs aren't 'second-class voters,' President Rivlin rebukes NetanyahuThe Israeli opposition must follow this model's lead | Opinion

“Recently, there is a discussion about my personal views and to whom I will give the task of forming a coalition and why,” he said, adding that “attacks like these or others will not frighten me.”

Speaking at the Israel Democracy Institute, the president said that he relates “to the elections and to the voice of the people with the utmost respect” and “will act in a way that is loyal to the language and spirit of the law, as I have done in previous elections, and as my predecessors have done.”

Rivlin criticized political attacks against the Israeli Arab public in the election campaign. “This onslaught is a danger to Israeli society and a danger to the values of the state of Israel, the Jewish state and democracy. In this state, in this home, everyone is equal. There are no first-class citizens, or second-class voters. It is incumbent upon us, in an election campaign as well, to stand firm and oppose the spirit that is endangering that. There are times that silence is no different than consent.”

On Monday, Rivlin took Prime Minister Benjamin to task for saying that “Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and them alone.” Rivlin responded then too that Israeli Arabs were not “second-class voters” and that “there are no first-class citizens” in the country, prompting right-wing criticism of him.

Netanyahu made the comment on an Instagram post, responding in turn to a statement by Israeli television host Rotem Sela. Sela slammed Culture Minister Miri Regev for saying in a televised interview that Arab presence in a governing coalition was dangerous.