In an unprecedented statement, President Reuven Rivlin cited the riot in Washington on Wednesday as a negative model for Israeli democracy and urged people to comply with the incoming coronavirus lockdown.
“The pictures of the disturbances from Capitol Hill are shocking. They remind us all that democracy, even when it is strong and deeply rooted, is not to be taken for granted,” Rivlin said.
Rivlin spoke as Israel experiences its own tensions, just hours before a third nationwide lockdown was set to begin, at midnight Thursday.
“I call on all public leaders — in all towns, from all segments of society, political leaders and spiritual leaders, mayors, heads of civil society organizations — please do your duty and stop the threat of anarchy. The lockdown, with all its restrictions as decided by the government, applies to us all,” he said.
“We are going into lockdown so as not to kill each other!” Rivlin warned.
Explaining the need for the closure, he said: “We are going into lockdown because the coronavirus wards and the hospital ICUs are close to overload. We are going into lockdown to protect our children. We, all of us and without exceptions, must follow its rules. All segments of society: Jews and Arabs, secular, religious and chareidi,” he said.
Failing to do so would amount to “anarchy,” he said.
“Disobeying the law, particularly the coronavirus regulations — and even more so, calling on others to disobey — is not only undermining our joint efforts to limit the spread of the disease, it is a tragedy that will remain with us, leading — Heaven forbid — to deepening the schisms that have opened between the different groups in our society,” he said.
Police were adding on some 5,000 officers to enforce restrictions around the country with roadblocks and fines if necessary. In recent weeks, many Israelis have ignored the restrictions already in place, but as infection levels have soared the authorities are intent on making the lockdown stick.
Noting Israel’s own political woes, Rivlin said: “Over recent years, with all of the election campaigns that we have had, and the painful questions that have been on the Israeli public agenda, the distance between us has grown perhaps greater than ever. But we must ensure that even if the gaps are deep, our democracy will protect us as a people, as a society and as a state.”
In his statement, Rivlin congratulated Joe Biden on the certification of his victory despite the disturbances in Congress.
“I am sure that President-elect Biden will continue to strengthen the relations between us and the United States of America, our closest friend and the greatest democracy in the world,” Rivlin said.