Civics lesson with President Rivlin – ahead of the 2019 elections, the president gave a civics lesso



Attached photo credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)



Israel President Rivlin:

"I want to make it absolutely clear to you that in the State of Israel, and in any democratic state, there is one single sovereign - not the government, but rather the people. There are many different views and types of people. As a rule, the president has to take into account what the people wanted in the election, as expressed in the results of the vote."

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin today, Tuesday 26 March / 19 Adar II, taught a civics lesson to 12th grade students from schools, yeshivot and ulpanot (religious boys’ and girls’ schools) in Bet Shemesh. Bet Shemesh was chosen as the location for the conversation with the students because it proved that in the recent municipal elections, when Aliza Bloch was elected as mayor, that there is an alternative and that it is possible to aim for a different kind of politics, which seeks common ground between different groups. Mayor of Bet Shemesh Dr Aliza Bloch also spoke at the event.

During the event, the president was asked questions from a panel of students from schools across the city: Netanel Ayalon from the Kiryat Chinuch yeshiva; Yael Mansour from Ahavat Yisrael ulpana; Naama Kayt from Branco-Weiss school; and Yisrael Libertovsky from Ahavat Yisrael yeshiva.

The president was asked what is his role during the elections and how is the prime minister appointed?


In his answer, the president stressed that the President of the State of Israel does not appoint the prime minister. That is the job of the Knesset. He also explained the meaning of democracy in Israel. “In the State of Israel, and in any democratic state, there is a single sovereign and that is not the government but rather the people. There are many different views and types of people. As a rule, the president has to take into account what the people wanted in the election, as expressed in the results of the vote. So, if there are more than 61 Members of Knesset who recommend one MK, that means that the people has decided to give that person the opportunity to form a government. The question is, what does the president do when there is no majority for a single person. What should he take into account? Perhaps the biggest party? It may be a question of how many MKs support one candidate as opposed to how many support a different candidate, and whether the MK who received the most support has the best chance of persuading others to form a coalition with him. These are very difficult questions for the president, and if necessary I’ll come back and consult with you.”


At the end of the event, the students asked the president’s advice regarding their first vote. The president replied that, although voting is a simple act in practical terms, it is very important indeed. The way in which a citizen is sovereign to choose his or her representatives should not be taken for granted, and most people in the world do not have that right. He also said, “we should give our voting choices the appropriate level of consideration. To understand not only who is at the top of the list, but also who are the other candidates on it, and what their positions are on the issues that matter to us. These are only some of the questions we should be asking ourselves ahead of the vote. It is not the government’s right to lead the people, it is its duty to do so. The government is chosen by the people to lead it. Sometimes, the government is required to take decisions that appear controversial to the people, but that is because the people does not always know the full range of considerations and details that are involved in such decsisions. However, I want to stress that the role of the citizen in a democratic state does not end at the polling booth. The best advice I can give you is to be engaged and involved citizens during the elections, but also to be engaged and involved citizens after the elections.”

At the end of his remarks, the president said, “the municipal elections may have shown us that there is an alternative, but the important process that you began a few months ago is still in its early stages. I wish for you and for us that the new reality that you are working so hard to create here continues to grow, to take root and to improve. I hope that the whole State of Israel, the other local authorities and the new Knesset that will be elected sees Bet Shemesh as an example and that they implement there what you are doing here.”


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