President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday warned against efforts to “radicalize” Israeli political discourse in the lead-up to general elections later this month and called for national unity.
“As the elections approach, when passions are flaring and the discourse coarsens, I implore you not to believe the incitement and the personal attacks. Do not listen to the voices that are eager to radicalize the discourse, to the right or to the left,” Rivlin said during an opening of the school year ceremony at a yeshiva in the Migdal Oz settlement, one of whose students was murdered last month in a terror attack.
“Take responsibility for our ‘together’ because this ‘together’ is the only guarantee of our strength and the best guarantee of our safety,” the president added.
He also said Dvir Sorek, the 18-year-old yeshiva student killed in the stabbing attack, left Israeli leaders with the responsibility of “discourse and contact between the various tribes and streams within Israeli society.”
The president has previously expressed similar concerns about campaign rhetoric, and after elections in April said politicians had “worked overtime in the service of delegitimization, hatred and slurs.”
Israelis will go to the polls for a second time this year on September 17, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government and pushed through a bill to call fresh elections rather than have another lawmaker get a crack at cobbling together a coalition.
Rivlin’s latest criticism appeared partly directed at Netanyahu, who on Saturday railed against the Channel 12 network’s owners and accused them of carrying out a “terror attack against democracy.”
Netanyahu has been harshly critical of Channel 12 for its reporting on corruption accusations against him, in particular by legal reporter Guy Peleg, who was one of a number of journalists targeted in Likud’s election campaign earlier this year.
In a Facebook live video on Saturday, Netanyahu called out the CEO of Channel 12 operator Keshet, the head of its news division and two of its major shareholders by name, accusing them of carrying out a “terror attack against democracy” by “pulling the strings” of Peleg, who has broadcast extensive leaks from the cases against the premier.
Netanyahu claimed that the four executives had a vendetta against him because “they think I’m trying to break up their monopoly.” He did not specify what monopoly he was referring to.
The Yedioth Ahronoth daily reported Friday that Channel 12 news had decided to assign Peleg a security detail in light of recent threats against him on social media.
The prime minister’s post Saturday night came a day after he called on Israelis to boycott Channel 12 and Keshet for its role in producing the HBO series “Our Boys,” which he labeled “anti-Semitic.” In a Facebook post, he wrote Israelis should stop watching the network for “its choice to tarnish us in the world with lies against the State of Israel.”
“Our Boys” tells the story of the gruesome murder of an Arab teen by Jewish extremists in 2014. The series has been controversial in Israel for choosing to focus on that event rather than the events that precipitated it — the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teens in the West Bank.
The prime minister has a pre-indictment hearing scheduled for October 2-3, after which Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit will decide whether to formally file charges against him in three separate cases.