Obama to Rivlin: your leadership on Israeli democracy has set an example
Former US President Barack Obama sent a farewell letter to President Reuven Rivlin ahead of his departure on Wednesday, applauding his efforts to protect democracy in Israel.
“The work of the United States and Israel in the pursuit of peace, security and democratic progress is never finished,” Obama wrote, “but your leadership in the name of unity and democracy in Israel and the partnership abroad has set a positive example for those who follow in your footsteps.
The missive could be understood as a blow to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in office for most of Rivlin’s tenure and whom Obama has accused of potentially undermining Israel’s democratic traditions.
“Congratulations on a remarkable career and thank you for your friendship over the years,” Obama said in the letter. “You have always been a strong believer in the close friendship between the United States and Israel, and during my tenure as President, I have always been able to count on you as a source of advice and partnership. “
He recalled Rivlin’s visit in 2015 and the lighting of the Chanukah candles together.
Isaac Herzog was due to take office on Wednesday as Israel’s 11th president after a day of ceremonies with outgoing Rivlin.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Rivlin to express his hope that peace would be made between the two sides.
Charles, Prince of Wales, thanked Rivlin for ‘all you have done to ensure that relations between our two countries have developed in so many ways, especially in the areas of technology and scientific collaboration, during your mandate ”.
“I also very much appreciated the opportunity to speak honestly to each other as friends, including on the most complex issues,” added the British Crown Prince.
Other members of the royal family have also written to Rivlin.
In his letter, King Felipe V of Spain recounted their participation in the World Leaders Forum on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
He wished Rivlin “all the best in your future endeavors – derech tzlacha. “
Philippe, King of the Belgians, wrote that he shares “the key priority of developing inclusive societies. The repeated calls you have made in this regard throughout your tenure are universal messages pleading for a world of peace and harmony.
Guatemalan President Alejandro Eduardo Giammattei Falla thanked the president for his “efforts to promote peace, development and security”.
Wednesday’s events began with the official unveiling of a bust of Rivlin in the Statues Garden of the President’s official residence. The sculpture was erected on Monday alongside those of Rivlin’s predecessors, two days before the end of his seven-year term.
On a plaque under the bust is a quote from Rivlin: “Without the ability to listen, there is no ability to learn. Without the ability to learn, there is no ability to repair.
During his tenure, Rivlin has consistently achieved high marks of public approval, with a determination to represent the broad spectrum of Israeli communities and his obvious compassion resonating with the public.
In the afternoon, Herzog was to be sworn in in the Knesset. He will be sworn in on a 107-year-old Bible that has a long history in his family – the same one his father, Chaim Herzog, used when he was sworn in as president in 1983. The Bible has survived the two world wars and was given to her grandmother by her father the day before her wedding.
ה 11 יצחק הרצוג יישבע היום אמונים על ספר תנ”ך בן מעל 107 שנה שעליו נשבע גם אביו ואשר שרד את מלחמות העולם הראשונה והשנייה. הרצוג pic.twitter.com/IHe65eCRYm
– Itamar Eichner (@itamareichner) July 7, 2021
The new speaker will then address the Knesset plenum. In his speech, Herzog is expected to talk about the divisions and polarization in Israeli society, ways to bridge the divisions and the tools needed to preserve Israel’s democracy, the Ynet news site reported on Wednesday.
After a toast to the Speaker in the Knesset, Herzog will travel to the Speaker’s Residence, where there will be a handover ceremony with Rivlin.
A personal letter from Rivlin, addressed to the “president,” awaits Herzog on his desk in the president’s office.
“The truth is, I envy you a little. In no time you will discover the immense privilege that has eluded you, ”Rivlin wrote in the letter. .
“Over the next seven years you will meet men and women citizens of Israel. I’m telling you already, you’ll want to hug them all. You will want to cry with them and laugh with them. To be excited with them, ”Rivlin wrote.
Echoing the themes he expressed in a 2015 speech warning of the deterioration of unity in Israeli society, Rivlin wrote: “Among the tribes, in the shadow of controversies and divisions, you will find courageous people who do not talk about “the whole”, they only live it. Day to day and hour to hour. At home, those of the right and the left, Jews and Arabs, veterans [citizens] and new immigrants, religious and traditional, young and old. People of all faiths, sectors and ethnicities. All of them Israelis. Beautiful, enlightening and generous. And what a heart they have, beyond words.
Rivlin also warned his successor of the emotional toll, recalling how his sleep was sometimes disturbed by the thoughts of those he met who were facing challenges in one form or another.
“You’ll be surprised. Fall in love. Be proud. Take things to heart,” Rivlin wrote.
“Many times, during trips, at meetings, I told myself that the title ‘Citizen Number One’ was born simply because he is the number one person. Today, I’m sure, ”Rivlin concluded.
Herzog, former chairman of the Jewish Agency and leader of the Labor Party, won more votes in the Knesset in the early June election than any other presidential candidate in the country’s history.
Before the ceremony, Herzog prayed at the Western Wall on Tuesday and left a note in the cracks, writing that he would be dedicated to “unity among our people and true love for Israel.”
As the 11th president of Israel, he said, he “will do everything to make a significant contribution to our unity, a significant contribution to appease our spirits and strengthen the noble vision of mutual love.”
Herzog was elected on June 2 by 87 of the 120 Knesset members as Israel’s 11th president, a largely honorary post. Miriam Peretz, an Israel Prize-winning social activist and educator who lost two sons of soldiers in Israel’s wars, was backed by 26 lawmakers in the secret ballot.
A lawyer by profession in one of the largest firms in the country (founded by his father), Herzog has a family history as close as possible to Israeli royalty.
He is the grandson of Israel’s first Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Isaac Herzog, whose name he bears, and the son of former IDF Major General and later President Chaim Herzog. His brother Michael is a retired IDF Brigadier General. His aunt Suzy was the wife of former Foreign Minister Abba Eban.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.