President Reuven Rivlin addressed the leadership of the International Friends of Givat Haviva – The Center for a Shared Society – who presented the President with an award for his work to promote cooperation and partnership in Israeli society.
Rivlin stressed that confidence building measures between Jews and Arabs required dealing with the narrowing of the gaps between the sectors in terms of budget and infrastructure allocation, and went on to note that after 67 years in which no new Arab city or town had been built, the time had come to do so in accordance with the government resolution passed in July 2008, and which had received approval from the national planning committee.
Since an Arab city would, by definition, be intended for Arabs, it remains to be seen whether the High Court would allow other cities to define themselves as Jewish – or whether this would be defined as racism. Rivlin did not address this question.
The President opened his address by speaking of the changing face of Israeli society, which he noted was comprised of four central ‘tribes’ which make up similar proportions of society; secular, national religious (modern orthodox), ultra-Orthodox, and Arab – and of the need to build a shared Israeli identity, a modern Israeli identity.
The President called for the forging of a shared Israeli identity: "not just for a boy in Tel Aviv, or a girl in Kafr Qasem; but for them both, together with the boy in Bnei Barak, and the girl in Beit El."
He stressed that, “The Jewish public need acknowledge that the Arab public is part and parcel of this land – a public shaped by a collective cultural identity. To the same extent, and regardless of threats or fear, the Palestinian consciousness and history must never be defined as an opposition or resistance to Zionism or the Jewish people.
Echoing the sentiment of MK Oren Hazan (Likud), who proposed a bill for mandatory studies of spoken Arabic from first grade, Rivlin said that the time has come for the Arabic language to be learned by the Jewish population. “Language leads from the ear to the heart,” he said.
The President stressed that confidence building measures needed to be taken by both sides. He said, “There is not, and should not be an expectation on behalf of the Jewish public, that the Arab public would sing Israel's national anthem with eyes glistening, however, there is a just and understandable expectation that the Arab population accept the rules of democracy and citizenship, rules which guide us, and that they play a meaningful role for the benefit of Israeli society in general.
"Accordingly, the Jewish public in the State of Israel, expects and will continue to expect to hear clear condemnation of those within the Arab community who continue to align themselves with the worst of our enemies, and those who seek to undermine Israel's very right to exist. Similarly, the Jewish public in the State of Israel, expects and will continue to expect from the Arab public, a sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility, as exhibited by the undertaking of public and community service, and concern for the public well-being.”
He added, “The mission of building confidence between the Jewish and Arab communities is not solely the task of the Left or any particular political camp. It is the mission of all for whom this land is dear.”
Also speaking at the ceremony was Givat Haviva’s Director of Planning, Equality and Shared Society, Mohammad Darawshe. Also participating in the ceremony was be Director of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace Riad Kabha, Givat Haviva Executive Director, Yaniv Sagee, and leading members of the International Friends of Givat Haviva.