President Rivlin: Israel 'On the Right Path' in Ensuring Equality for Arab Citizens

In an opinion piece published by Newsweek for the Balfour Declaration's centenary, the president pledges that Israel will continue to strive for a peace deal with the Palestinians

President Reuven Rivlin addresses the audience during a ceremony at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, Israel, October 30, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

President Reuven Rivlin expressed his pride on Thursday in the country's efforts "to ensure equality" for the Arab citizens of Israel, a group which constitutes nearly a quarter of the total population.

In an opinion piece published by Newsweek, Rivlin addressed the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, a 67-word document in which Britain pledged support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Ottoman-ruled Palestine. 

"This aspect of the declaration can be considered a great success," Rivlin writes, describing Israel as "a vibrant democracy, a thriving economy, and a light unto the nations."

In the second part of the declaration, Lord Balfour stipulated that the establishment of a Jewish homeland must not "prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

According to Rivlin, Israel is "on the right path" when it comes to ensuring equal rights for Arab Israelis. "In the president’s office, as part of the understanding that Israeli society today is made up of different communities, Jewish and Arab, religious and secular, we have made tremendous strides forward in building bridges and understanding between the Arab and Jewish communities especially," Rivlin opines.

Touching upon the third part of the declaration, which calls for the protection of Jews outside of Israel, Rivlin writes that, "we stand firm in our support for every Jew to live in safety and freedom wherever they should choose." The president thanked the British government and other nations for their commitment to world Jewry and their efforts toward combating anti-Semitism.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Rivlin described as a "tragedy," the president pledged that Israel "will continue to seek and strive to find a lasting and peaceful solution" through mutual acceptance. 

"When it is truly understood, as I have always said, that the Arabs and Jews of the Holy Land are not doomed to live together but indeed destined to live together, then the legacy of Balfour will be truly realized," Rivlin concluded.

Rivlin's opinion piece was published as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in the United Kingdom to mark the declaration's centenery. Netanyahu is slated to meet with his British counterpart Theresa May twice on Thursday, including a private dinner hosted by the descendants of Lords Balfour and Rothschild. 

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are planning a major demonstration in London, along with an official request to the British government to apologize for the declaration and recognize the State of Palestine based on 1967 borders.