“Make no mistake, haters of Israel – our domestic arguments reflect the power of our democracy and our internal resilience,” Herzog declared.
By Gil Tanenbaum, TPS
President of Israel Isaac Herzog addressed the opening of the 25th Knesset Tuesday evening after its members were sworn in and seated. He called on the various parties to keep their political discourse respectful.
Unfortunately, the president was also forced to open his speech with a comment about Tuesday morning’s terrorist attack in the Ariel Industrial Zone in Samaria, which saw the murder of three innocent civilians.
“A depraved terrorist targeted innocents, whose only crime was wanting to lead quiet lives in their country—our country, and in the Land of Israel,” Herzog stated.
“Israel will continue to stand firmly and assertively, everywhere and always, against acts of terror and hatred that rear their heads and menace us all. On behalf of the entire Israeli people, I share the deep grief of the victims’ families and of the city of Ariel, and I pray for the health of the injured,” he said.
The president also had stern words for the terrorists and anyone who would harm the State of Israel.
“To Israel’s enemies and those who wish us ill, including those responsible for this attack, to those who would have us divided and weak, I wish to send this unambiguous message: You will not succeed in rattling our might and our cohesion, not by means of threats, not through violence, not through terror, nor by means of foolish endeavors on the international stage.
“Those who rise up to destroy us will always find us ready and determined, one hand clutching a weapon and the other extended in peace,” he said.
Herzog also vowed that Israel’s security forces will continue to protect its citizens.
And in a veiled reference to a recent UN committee vote to take Israel to the International Court of Justice over the Palestinian issue, he said that “the State of Israel’s diplomatic and judicial institutions, including our Supreme Court, will continue serving as our diplomatic and judicial defensive wall in the international arena; and above all, you shall face the mighty, eternal Israeli spirit, uncompromising and unflinching.”
These words may also have come in response to the recent announcement by the FBI about its decision to investigate the death of the Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who held American citizenship and was killed when she got caught in a crossfire between IDF forces and Arab terrorists during an operation in the Jenin Refugee Camp on May 11. It was later determined that she may have been shot accidentally by an IDF soldier.
Acknowledging concerns of minorities
As for the divisiveness and sometimes hostile nature of Israel’s internal political disputes – some of which seemed to heat up even more in the two weeks since the Knesset elections were held – Herzog warned Israel’s enemies not to see this as a sign that the country is not united in its determination to defend itself.
“Make no mistake, haters of Israel,” he declared, “our domestic arguments reflect the power of our democracy and our internal resilience. It is precisely because of them, and especially because of them, that you shall never defeat us.”
On the matter of Israel’s internal political debate, President Herzog commented that it is allowed in a democracy, and sometimes even required, to “reopen for debate the division of powers and authorities between the various branches of government, which balance each other.”
But, said Herzog, Israelis must “do so through listening, through open dialogue, through respectful discourse—and fairly. This is of course a mission that confronts all three branches of government—legislature, executive, and judiciary—which must be attentive to each other while at the same time remaining committed to our collective vision as a people and as a state.”
“Even at moments of the deepest and most destabilizing disagreement,” he added, “which you will surely yet experience here in the Plenum, I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, not to forget the words of the Book of Proverbs: ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue’ and all the more so, not to forget that these branches, the branches of the Israeli state, are not amorphous institutions or imaginary entities, but are made up of people, human beings—public sector workers, public servants, elected officials.”
Herzog asked all of the members of the Knesset, all Israeli politicians, and to make a special effort to maintain the “dignity of those who dedicate their lives to serving our people and our state. IDF soldiers and commanders, doctors and nurses, police officers and prison wardens, principals and teachers, attorneys and judges, social workers, and many other devoted public servants who are working day by day, hour by hour, for us, for the general public, with a sense of duty and commitment to their mission.”
While acknowledging that criticism is certainly allowed in a democracy, he asked Israel to “please, please do so respectfully and responsibly.”
The President also acknowledged the concerns of Israel’s minority communities. “You, the public’s elected representatives, must give this your consideration and keep them in your sights too,” he said.
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