In what could qualify as one of the most surprising political statements from Israel, its head of state just admitted that the country’s society is suffering from an epidemic of violence that must be treated as soon as possible.
Referring to the bloody onslaught on the Gaza Strip during summer, President Reuven Rivlin said Jews and Arabs within Israel seem to have lost the capacity for dialogue.
“We have all witnessed the shocking sequence of incidents and violence taking place by both sides. The epidemic of violence is not limited to one sector or another, it permeates every area and doesn’t skip any arena,” Rivlin told the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (IASH) at a xenophobia conference on Sunday in Jerusalem.
“There is violence in soccer stadiums as well as in academia. There is violence in social media and in everyday discourse, in hospitals and in schools,” he said.
“It is time to honestly admit that Israeli society is sick – and it is our duty to treat this disease.”
At one point, Rivlin also addressed the Jewish population of Israel, leaving them with a very important question:
“I’m not asking if they’ve forgotten how to be Jews, but if they’ve forgotten how to be decent human beings. Have they forgotten how to converse?”
While concluding his speech, Rivlin urged the Academy to take on this challenge and to eradicate the violence that has tarnished the image of Israel for a long time now.
Israel’s military offensive “Operation Protective Edge” – which started in June – claimed over 2,200 Palestinian lives in the course of almost fifty days.Of those killed, about 1,462 (or 70 percent) were civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the conflict – apart from the killings of course – was the fact how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shamelessly defended civilian massacre, despite global outrage.
Netanyahu’s consistent unapologetic behavior over the past few months, and years, is also one of the main reasons Rivlin’s statement on Israeli violence is a milestone in Middle East politics.
Too bad the real executive power in Israel lies in the hands of the Prime Minister, though.