‘There are no half-citizens in Israel’: Israel’s president says

“In the Jewish democratic equation, every vote counts. In the state of Israel, there are no half-citizens,” Rivlin said.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin reminded politicians Wednesday that despite election results showing there was no clear winner, all Israelis were part of the democracy whether they were Jewish are not.

“In the Jewish democratic equation, every vote counts. In the state of Israel, there are no half-citizens,” Rivlin said at a press conference where he received the officials results of the March 2 national election from Supreme Court Judge Neal Hendel, chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

Praising a clean and fair election process as the “holy of holies” behind Israel’s strong democracy, Rivlin said all Israelis continued to have faith in the system, despite three consecutive elections in the past year that had failed to result in a new government.

With the official election results delayed by recounts at some polling stations and anxiety that the numbers might change, Rivlin spoke in Arabic quoting the proverb that “haste is from the devil and patience is from the Merciful One.”

Rivlin is a former Likud Party stalwart who served under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a cabinet minister and was speaker of the house before becoming president in 2014. Popular with Israelis, Rivlin is known as a fierce defender of democracy and promoter of equal rights for the Arab minority.

He acknowledged that “there are deep disagreements” in the charged political atmosphere following the move by opposition Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz to enlist the support of Israel’s Arab parties.

The Joint List of four primarily Arab parties won a record 15 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Gantz wants them to prop up his proposed minority government that would see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party pushed out of power.

The president used the press conference to repeat his call last year for a compromise government of national unity comprising Likud (36 seats) and Blue and White (33 seats). The proposal calls for the two to share power for the next four years with Netanyahu and Gantz alternating in the prime minister’s seat.

“I am certainly aware of the criticism of the outline that I presented then, and agree with much of it. But I did not believe there was another way and, even today, the situation has not changed a great deal,” Rivlin said. Israeli presidents serve as the symbolic head of state and do not make policy during their single, seven-year term.

The 120 members of Israel’s parliament are scheduled to be sworn-in and take their seats at a special ceremony at the Knesset on Monday, March 16. The days after will see Rivlin invite leaders of all factions to get their recommendations on who they want to form a new government.

Results of the past two elections held last year on April 9 and September 17 were both inconclusive. Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz were able to cobble together a coalition to gain a majority of at least 61 members and Rivlin called on the politicians to not fail and force a fourth round of elections.

The answers are for you to find, those who the public elected as its leaders, and I hereby place the task in your hands once again,” Rivlin said. “Any agreement that produces a stable government that gains the trust of the people will be welcomed.”