President Rivlin Tells Israeli Lawmakers: 'IDF Must Fortify Democracy in Our Country'

'IDF's purpose is to keep us safe,' Israel's president tells Knesset opening session, calling for moderate policies that all could agree on.

President Reuven Rivlin addresses the Knesset on Monday, October 31, 2016.
Emil Salman

President Reuven Rivlin addressed a Knesset plenary session on Monday, at the opening of the lawmakers' winter session, discussing disagreements that have deepened recently over the Israeli Army and its role in society in light of scandals regarding the actions of soldiers in the field and the conduct of officers.

"We're allowed to argue over the IDF's principles," said Rivlin. "At the end of the day, the IDF is not a democratic body; its purpose is to keep us safe, the citizens of the State of Israel, and that includes the fortifying of democracy in our country." 

Several incidents over the past year have thrown protocol and conduct into question, particularly in dealings with the Palestinian population. One IDF soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, remains on trial for allegedly shooting and killing a subdued Palestinian assailant without just cause.

The president had a similar message for issues surrounding the Supreme Court and the controversial plans for a public broadcaster to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

"We're allowed to disagree on Supreme Court rulings, but we're obligated to abide by its decisions," said Rivlin. "Therefore, those who want a public broadcaster can't turn it into a mouthpiece of commissars and those who oppose a public broadcaster will come and say clearly what he has to say." 

Rivlin's overall message was a call for moderate policies that all could agree on. 

"Those who want a public broadcaster have to ensure that it is unbiased across party lines," said the president. "After all, we all understand that on the ferris wheel of politics, sometimes you're up and sometimes you're down."