President Reuven Reuven and First Lady Nechama hosted ambassadors and diplomats representing over 100 countries, on Monday morning – and his speech aroused some criticism from nationalist elements. The traditional reception in honor of Rosh HaShanah, the upcoming Jewish New Year, was held at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.
President Rivlin told his guests, "The State of Israel was not established to be an island in a hostile sea. As set out in the Declaration of Independence, Israel strives for good relations with our neighbors and peace in the region. Our treaties, with Egypt and Jordan, stand as witness to this strong desire and show our willingness to make painful compromises, if there is a real chance for peace and security, and I believe there is a real chance for peace and security."
At least one grassroots organization felt that these words were too "soft" and too "left-wing" – according to a statement it issued – for Israel's interests. The statement by Mattot Arim, an Israeli non-governmental organization, decries Rivlin's implication that concessions must be made by one side – Israel.
"President Rivlin did not express his hope for concessions from any party other than from Israel," said Mattot Arim spokesperson Susie Dym. "He did not even call on the countries hostile to Israel to forge diplomatic relations with Israel."
"Pres. Rivlin said that in his opinion, Israel can make 'painful concessions' because there is a 'chance' for peace and security," the organization further stated. "He has apparently forgotten that the tragedies of Oslo and the Disengagement from Gaza that have led to close to 1,500 dead Israelis and difficult wars, were carried out in the name of that same 'chance' for peace and security – a 'chance' that of course did not pan out."
"Has Pres. Rivlin learning nothing from the past?" asks Mattot Arim.
Rivlin spoke of his concern regarding Iran: "Iran continues to threaten stability in the region and around the world. Their backing of terror, in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq, makes Iran's nuclear ambitions, truly terrifying – not just for Israel, but for all. It cannot be that with one flick of a pen, Iran becomes a member of the club, and instead the world turns to single out the victim of Iran's aggression."
Israel Can be Proud
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Ambassador of Cameroon, H.E. Mr. Henry Etoundi Essomba, also addressed the event. He thanked the President and First Lady for their warm welcome and hospitality, and expressed his warm wishes for all Israel and the Jewish people for a happy new year. "On the humanitarian front," he said, "Israel can be proud to belong to coalition of countries always prepared to assist people facing humanitarian crises around the world – as was the case after the earthquake in Nepal."
President Rivlin, a long-time Land of Israel supporter, has been widely criticized in the nationalist camp for his left-leaning remarks since taking office last year. His meeting last week with mayors from Judea and Samaria seemed to have turned the tide somewhat, but his speech to the diplomats may have set the pendulum swinging once again in the other direction.