Israeli President Reuven Rivlin marked the first year of his presidency at the annual Herzliya Conference on Sunday, calling on Israelis to confront their shifting identities.
“Israeli society is changing its face, changes that will reshape our identities as Israelis,” Rivlin said.
“The current changes in Israeli society will have a profound impact on the way we understand ourselves and our national home. Whether we like it or not the ‘structural ownership’ of Israeli society and the State of Israel is changing before our eyes,” the president added.
“First-grade classes are composed of about 38% secular Jews, about 15% national-religious, about one-quarter Arabs, and close to a quarter ultra-Orthodox,” Rivlin said, adding that the demographic changes within Israel have “created a ‘new Israeli’ order…there is no longer a clear majority nor clear minority groups.”
Rivlin called on the country to “balance the secular-liberal character of the State of Israel and the Zionist enterprise,” posing the question: “Are we able to accept that two major groups which will make up half of Israel’s future population don’t define themselves as Zionists?”
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, said that Israel may opt for an extensive operation in Gaza following the renewal of rocket fire over the past several days.
“Barring a sharp change in Hamas policy, we may again find oursevles in a reality where Hamas misreads the force of our determination to deal with the issue – this may lead to a campaign similar to Operation Defensive Shield,” referring to the IDF’s 2002 military operation in the West Bank.
Education Minister Naftali Bennett used his speech to call for the international community to recognize the annexation of the Golan Heights.
“There’s good and bad, and the State of Israel represents the good. The time has come for the Western world to stand aside those who are right.”
Bennett also called on Yair Lapid to unite around the Golan Heights issue. “We will continue to argue over the West Bank and Hamas, let’s not argue about ISIS.”
The Herzliya Conference, one of Israel’s main global policy gatherings, draws big-name Israeli and international participants every year.