Rivlin speaks out against fear-mongering on campaign trail

Rivlin speaks out against fear-mongering on campaign trail

Commenting on mud-slinging between parties, president suggests the public still doubts the fortitude of Israeli sovereignty

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a conference organized by Israel Democracy Institute in Tel Aviv on March 14, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a conference organized by Israel Democracy Institute in Tel Aviv on March 14, 2019. (Yossi Zeliger)

Just two days ahead of the election, President Reuven Rivlin spoke out Sunday against the fear-mongering being employed by various parties on the campaign trail.

“Throughout the election campaign, we’ve seen too many videos, words and news stories that filled us with a feeling of fear — fear of each other, fear of the future.” Rivlin said during a Bible study class in the president’s Jerusalem residence.

The past several months have seen right-wing parties decry the prospect of a left-wing takeover that would place the security of Israelis under threat, and the center-left warn of the future of Israeli democracy if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reelected.

Rivlin avoided calling out specific parties, preferring to speak more broadly on the matter.

He went on to suggest that the tactic stemmed from a failure to believe in the fortitude of Israel as a sovereign nation, even 71 years after the state’s founding.

“I think we can learn from this that, even if we are sovereign, our sense of sovereignty is not absolutely established,” Rivlin continued.

“It’s as if we have remained in the desert a moment before entering the Land of Israel and do not know which way to go, to the land of milk and honey or to the land that devours its inhabitants,” he said, quoting from the Biblical story of the Exodus. “And I know that this is the land of milk and honey.”

The president added that “we are busy marking out enemies in order to prove our sovereignty to ourselves, even when there is no need.”

Rivlin has also found himself a target of the divisive rhetoric of the past several months leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

Last week, Netanyahu told members of his Likud party that the president “is just looking for an excuse” to task Blue and White chief Benny Gantz with forming a government after upcoming elections.

In a recording aired by Channel 12, Netanyahu urged supporters to head to the polls on April 9, warning a large enough seat advantage for Gantz could prevent Likud from forming the next government.

In a rare statement responding to the remarks, Rivlin’s office called them “another despicable attempt to undermine public trust in the president’s decision after the elections.”

Sunday’s comments were not the first time Rivlin has urged candidates to maintain a respectful level of discourse. Last month, Rivlin also called for unity amid an increasingly incendiary election campaign.

Speaking at a ceremony for IDF soldiers missing in action at the military cemetery on Mount Herzl, Rivlin said: “Even in times like this, we must not forget that in the trenches and waiting for battle we lie next to each other. Side by side, left and right, Jews and non-Jews.”

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