Israel swears in new president amid Gaza war
President Reuven Rivlin was sworn in at a low-key ceremony in the Knesset on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Rivlin and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein decided not to postpone the ceremony but to make it more modest, in light of the fighting in the Gaza Strip. An honor guard met Rivlin in the plaza in front of the legislature and then a plenum meeting was held in his honor.
The meeting opened with a fanfare and an address from Edelstein.
President Shimon Peres gave his final speech as president, followed by Rivlin taking the oath of office on a Bible.
Edelstein declared, “Long live the president of the State of Israel!” and MKs responded, “Yechi, yechi, yechi!” meaning “long life.”
After the cheering, Rivlin gave a speech in which he thanked Peres in the name of the Israeli people for "a lifetime of carrying this nation's burden."
"We will continue setting down cornerstones and building our land. That is our commitment to our forefathers and descendants," Rivlin said.
"Our enemies shoot from schools, use human shields, but they will not stop us. We believe that we are in the right," Rivlin said, referring to the ongoing fighting in Gaza.
The new president ended his speech crying, and exclaiming: Long live the State of Israel!
The customary cocktail party was canceled, out of sensitivity to the security situation.
Instead, Rivlin shook hands with inauguration attendees.
“While IDF soldiers are fighting and citizens of Israel are threatened by missiles, we thought the event should be more modest and low-key.
We support IDF soldiers in their holy mission to bring quiet and calm to all residents of Israel as soon as possible,” Edelstein and Rivlin said in a joint statement.
Among those in attendance at the ceremony were mayors from communities in the South, whom Edelstein and Rivlin invited on Wednesday.
“Our message is that the central event in Israel is Operation Protective Edge, and it should be clear in the Knesset, as well,” Edelstein and Rivlin said in a joint statement.
“Mayors in the South are the symbol of the public standing strong during this difficult time. We will host them in the Knesset while emphasizing the warm feelings of the whole nation for IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza and the public living in the South under a greater threat from Hamas’s missiles than anyone else,” they said.
Peres on his penultimate day in office met in the morning with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and in the evening with US Secretary of State John Kerry and discussed the Gaza security crisis with each. Peres thanked both men for not giving up on the peace process and for making it their business to come to the region at this time.
All three are in accord that the only solution to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is two states for two peoples.
Each has called for the shooting to stop and for negotiations for a cease-fire to begin.
Peres has stated several times in recent weeks that although he is retiring from office he is not retiring from efforts to attain peace.
Ban echoed that sentiment in the morning, as did Kerry in the evening.
In reviewing his own seven- year tenure at the inauguration of his successor, Peres will make several references to the peace process and to his conviction that the best peace partner for Israel is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Also on Wednesday, former US president Bill Clinton took to Twitter to wish a “happy retirement to my friend and tireless advocate for peace Shimon Peres. Thank you for your leadership and service.”
Peres tweeted back: “Thank you my dear friend, looking forward to many more years of joint work together.”