Opening Knesset, Rivlin pleads with politicians to display leadership, end crisis

At the opening session of the 24th Knesset, President Reuven Rivlin implores Israel’s politicians to display leadership, bridge ideological divides, and give Israelis a stable government after over two years of political turmoil.

“Today, I stand before a parliament that has dissolved itself four times in less than two years. A parliament that has relinquished, time after time, the right to express its confidence in the government. The disagreements that divide our society are genuine differences. Many of them are matters of principle. But there are times when we are obliged to resolve even wrenching, tough, painful disagreements,” says Rivlin.

“The seats on which you are sitting, honorable members, are rare and valuable. The power you have, in the voting buttons in front of you, is enormous. The Israeli people looks to you and expects each one of you to show leadership. The kind of leadership this moment demands.

Reuven Rivlin announces his decision to name Benjamin Netanyahu to try to form a government on April 6, 2021. (Koby Gideon/GPO)

“Leadership that is faithful to the people and their values, but that also knows how to mark boundaries and show the way. Leadership that is confident in its path, but that sees ideological rivals not as the enemy, heaven forbid, but as potential partners. Leadership that, in the atmosphere of tribalism, knows how to steer away from separatism and alienation, which may be appropriate for the campaign trail, but are destructive when it comes to building a country and leading a people. Leadership of partnership and respect.

“That is the leadership the Israeli people needs now, and it is not something that is expected only of the Knesset member entrusted with forming a government or the new president you will elect, but of each one of you as representatives and leaders of the people.”

Six years ago, upon becoming president, Rivlin says, he warned Israel was becoming increasingly fragmented into four “tribes”: secular Jews, religious Jews, the ultra-Orthodox, and Arabs.

Those divides, he says, were painfully exposed during the past year’s pandemic and must be bridged.

“If we are not able to find a new model of partnership that allows us to live together here in mutual respect and genuine shared commitment to each other, our national resilience will be in real jeopardy.”