President Rivlin Rejects Criticism Over Participation in Haaretz Conference

The president came under fire from taking part in event which also featured representatives of Breaking the Silence.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the HaaretzQ conference in New York, December 13, 2015.
Erica Gannett for IRL Productions

President Reuven Rivlin rejected Sunday criticism of his decision to speak at a Haaretz conference in New York that also featured representatives from Breaking the Silence, as the defense minister forbidden the group's activists from taking part in activities involving Israeli soldiers. 

“I didn’t come to a Breaking the Silence conference, I came to a conference sponsored by Haaretz – a newspaper I’ve read for 70 years to know why what I think is right,” he told Channel 2 television. “Moreover, I think it’s one of the most important papers for the existence of Israeli democracy.”

Rivlin noted that he had been criticized by many Haaretz readers for attending a conference in Hebron in February. “I didn’t listen to their comments then, and I won’t listen to the comments of sundry others about my participation in Haaretz’s conference," he added.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked had criticized Rivlin’s participation, saying in a statement that Breaking the Silence, which collects testimony from soldiers about the abuses of the occupation, “harms the state’s image in the international arena by disseminating lies and distorting reality.”

Opposition MK Yair Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party, said in a Facebook post that though the group’s representatives at the conference “will try, as always, to smear the Israel Defense Forces,” he approved of Rivlin being there “to tell the truth.”

"Unlike others, I don't think that the president needs to boycott the conference. Everywhere people lie and slander the IDF, there needs to be an eloquent and worthy Israeli voice like that of president Rivlin to tell the truth," Lapid said.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that he has forbidden Breaking the Silence activists from taking part in activities involving IDF soldiers, in a move blasted by parts of the opposition as "McCarthyism" and by the group as "crossing a red line."