World needs new rules for new warfare
“The State of Israel is not at war with Islam. By the same token, the State of Israel is not at war with the Palestinian people,” President Reuven Rivlin told foreign diplomats at his residence in Jerusalem today.
Addressing the foreign diplomatic corps at the traditional reception held on the eve of Rosh Hashanah at the presidential residence in Jerusalem for the first time, Israel’s 10th president, Rivlin said that he had recently celebrated his 75th birthday. He was born in Jerusalem, he said, and his grandchildren “are the ninth generation of my family in this country. I myself, like my father, my grandfather and my great-great-grandfather before me, grew up in Jerusalem.”
Living together: not doom but destiny
Reuven Rivlin, who just months ago replaced Shimon Perez as Israel’s president, was meeting many of the diplomats for the first time.
CHANGING THE GUARD: Rivlin took over the presidency from Perez (left in picture) in August
During the nine generations his family had lived in Jerusalem, said Rivlin, “we shared our lives with the other residents of this land, with all the many communities and beliefs.” Of course, he said, there had been ups and downs in relations between Jews and Arabs, “and there will continue to be,” he said frankly.
“There will be a real change for the better in relations between Arabs and Jews only when both parties accept that we are not been doomed to live here together, rather, it is our destiny to live here together.
“We do not celebrate Rosh Hashanah with street parties or with dancing late into the night,” Rivlin said. “The Jewish people celebrate the New Year as a ‘family holiday’ and a time for ‘soul searching’.”
He added that this year, following the events of recent months in Israel, this period leading up to Rosh Hashanah takes on a special meaning.
Israel had to make difficult decisions
“In consideration of the fighting in the south, the people and leaders of Israel had to make difficult decisions: On one hand we had to protect our citizens, our homes and our land, while on the other hand, we faced the responsibility to avoid harming the innocent, as far as possible,” he told the diplomatic corps.
Inside Israel, he said, Israeli society also faced a big challenge. “We had to maintain our responsibility to enable free speech while supporting the people who were fighting to bring security to the people of Israel.
“In the past, wars took place between countries, but in recent decades, we have had to confront a new form of warfare: warfare waged between countries and terrorist organisations,” he said. We all know that in war, there are no winners, he said, but there is always harm and death.
However, he said, in war between a terror organisation and a sovereign state, the terror organisation is always in a “win-win situation”. When the terrorist organisation succeeds, in causing harm to the country that is fighting against it, then according to its own point of view, it has gained a victory.
Terror wins where innocents are killed
If in response to its actions, the terrorist organisation succeeds in drawing the sovereign country into aggressive military action where innocent women and children are killed, said the president, “then, here again, according to its own point of view it has gained a victory that will also bring with it the sympathy of public opinion.”
Israel is a country governed by the Rule of Law, said Rivlin. “Furthermore, Israel recognises the enormous importance of International Law and the importance of strictly obeying the Laws of War.”
Today, however, he says the international legal system is facing a new type of challenge, a new type of war that is taking place throughout the world.
It now, needs to provide a comprehensive and relevant judicial response to these new wars. The international Laws of War can no longer ignore this new situation,
that is so very different from traditional forms of warfare. The “Laws of War must be adapted so as to become more appropriate for the new reality that now exists”, was Rivlin’s message to the diplomats.
“The State of Israel is not at war with Islam. By the same token, the State of Israel
is not at war with the Palestinian people. I believe that the great majority of Palestinians who live in Gaza are innocent.
“If the choice was theirs, they would choose to live in a flourishing country with a booming economy and peaceful relations. The citizens of Gaza are no different from the citizens of Berlin, Paris, Mexico City, New Delhi, Bucharest or Brussels,
they too want to live in peace and security.
“The fact that one and a half million Palestinians are being held hostage by thirty thousand Hamas terrorists is a human tragedy.
“Today’s Israel is a social and economic miracle,” he said. “The State of Israel is not found only in the heart of the Middle East; Israel holds out its hand, everywhere, to friendly nations who need assistance during times of disaster.
“The State of Israel is found in the heart of the dry lands of African deserts, in Latin America, in Europe and in Asia. Israel can be found in the heart of computer processors and in the hi-tech industry throughout the world,” he said.
“You can find Israeli inventions and developments in hospitals in your countries,
in the computers you use, in aid programmes to fight drought, to desalinate sea water and to advance agriculture.
“You, the ambassadors who are living here in our country, who are familiar with what is going on here, know this very well,” Rivlin told the diplomats. As ambassadors serving in Israel, they also needed to be Israel’s ambassadors. “It is important that you bring the message of Israel to your own. When you talk about the State of Israel, please bring the diverse character of Israeli society. Present Israel in all its true complexity.”
Israel was not just a place of conflict, President Rivlin reminded them. “It is a place of life, of a strong economy. It is a place not trapped in the past, but looking forward towards a promising future.”
As president, he said, one of his most important tasks would be to make the members of Israeli society truly listen to each other, to be more open, more tolerant and more liberal.
“This, mainly in relations with the Arabs who live among us – the Arab population of Israel. The State of Israel, the Jewish and Democratic State of Israel, is the home, of all whot were born here – all those for whom this country is their homeland.
“The Arab citizens of Israel must also find in the State of Israel a home, as their right, not as a favour; they must share full and equal rights and recognition and must also play a true role in advancing and developing this country.
“I pray that during this coming year the gateways of all our hearts will be open
to listening to co-operation and to mutual commitment, I pray that during this coming year we shall listen to a symphony of the many voices that shape us, as a state, as a society and as human beings,” said the president.
“I wish you all a very happy and blessed year.”