President Revuen Rivlin this morning (Wednesday) addressed a special meeting at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, of the Foreign Press Association, which represents foreign journalists based in Israel.
President Rivlin began by speaking to the members of the media about the current escalation in Jerusalem, while at the time of the President’s address a terrorist knife attack took place in the Old City of Jerusalem. President Rivlin said, “We are sitting now just a few hundred yards from the Old City of Jerusalem; holy to people of faith, important to the students of history, and at the moment at the center of your work as journalists covering Israel. What has happened in the city over the past few days and weeks is heartbreaking and must be strongly condemned. Let me be clear; those who wish to turn the tragedy between us into a religious war have blood on their hands. We hear again and again, lies about Israel's intentions toward the holy mountain - holy to Jews and Muslims. So again, I say clearly, Israel has no intention to change the status quo. But this status quo - this important understanding - needs two sides to keep it.”
President Rivlin stressed that Israel would “continue to respect Muslim prayer at the site, the Mosque and the Shrine. But Muslims must respect the Jewish connection to Jerusalem, the Jews who live in Jerusalem, and the Jews who visit its holy sites. Only then can we begin – Jews, Muslims, and Christians - to live like we did before , together in the city of Jerusalem and all the holy land.”
Speaking of his work as since taking office, President Rivlin said, “Since my election as President of Israel, at the very top of my agenda has been bringing together the different communities, and people, of the State of Israel; to create a common civil language for the future Israeli society; to be sure that everyone from every community feels part of the Israeli experience, and shares in the Israeli hope. This is a social challenge; an economic challenge; and a strategic challenge; of our ability to strengthen Israel - as a democratic state, and a Jewish state - as a state which grants equality and freedom to all its citizens, while maintaining its national identity as the state of the Jewish People."
The President stressed that “Partnership must begin with dialogue. Dialogue is not just words, it is the building of mutual understanding and respect.” He noted that “The need for dialogue does not end at our gates. We and the Palestinians will not be able to move one step forward without speaking to each other directly. We and the Palestinians will not be able to hold negotiations and reach an agreement without a basic confidence in our ability to sit together as partners.”
He noted to the journalists, that “A free and open press is an integral part of this conversation - both inside of Israel and around the world. Your freedom to write and report is part of our freedom to hear and be heard. The international media must not allow the many voices of Israeli society to be lost behind the few who shout the loudest.”